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The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  447 ratings  ·  52 reviews
The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss reveals the story of the McKenna brothers' eye-opening expedition to the Amazon in 1971 for psychedelic research. Once introduced by famed psychedelics advocate Timothy Leary as "one of the most important people on the planet," radical philosopher Terence McKenna was an iconic legend in the psychedelic community. He died in 2000, but ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Brio Press
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Ross Heaven
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The chorizo was needed for stamina, the coffee to keep me awake because as soon as I picked this book up I couldn't put it down - and at over 500 pages all told, this is no skimpy volume so it took me two days and two all-night sessions to get through it. In the absence of amphetamine, thank God and the swine for chorizo.

Ripped on coffee and sausaged-out in the cold light of my last day with Dennis, the question is 'Was it worth it?' And the only answer I can give you besides hard-wired caffiene
...more
Tiger
Mar 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If anything, this self-publication shows the value of professional editors, as it should have been cut down to a 10th of its size. It's nothing but an overly detailed account of a man still living in his brother's shadow a decade after his death, so stuffed with uninteresting facts and minute details, that the McKenna brothers aren't even born until page 80 or so, and only smoke their first joint at around page 150.

The author starts the book by explaining it took him a while to get to writing be
...more
Cypherks
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Currently reading this book after waiting over a year when I first heard Dennis talk about the project.

I don't want to reveal the contents of the book - it's just too good to "spill the beans" on, let me just say that it's been hard to put down and I've fallen asleep reading this book more than a few times...just a few pages more! Let me finish this chapter! Zzz and I'm asleep :-(

Dennis McKenna is, in my mind, and I'm sure that of many others, somewhat of a myth, legend and psychonaut. He's als
...more
David
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is the story of the McKenna brothers, told from Dennis McKenna's perspective. Having familiarized myself with Terence's side of the story over the past several years, it was very enlightening and rewarding to look at things from Dennis' eyes. Terence McKenna was a well-known Irish bard who travelled the world during the '80s and '90s on a lecture circuit, speaking about esoteric subjects and advocating the use of psychedelics. I was first introduced to his work by Lorenzo Hagerty's "Psyched ...more
Cathie
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
A many-layered, multi-dimensional narrative that chronicles the early life, formative influences, and lifelong (if erratic) interplay of ideas between the McKenna brothers. This book is a labor of love, catharsis, and integration. Dennis's story is at times slowed down by an overabundance of personal detail, but ultimately it succeeds in bringing the reader to a deeper appreciation of his views on many of Terence's ideas, as well as the trajectory and impact of his own career. Their life-changin ...more
Jim Brannon
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the author reflects, "Time, in its way, just keeps flowing," in this epic memoir that spans a man and his brother's journey from innocent beginnings to childhood's end, from the peaks and valleys of his everyday experiences to their combined attempts to chart a vast unmapped hyperspace.

This is The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, and it was a hell of a ride.

Along the way, Scientist and Ethnobotanist Dennis J. McKenna and his famous raconteur brother Terence McKenna (written from the persp
...more
Theresa
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: south-america, memoir
Dennis McKenna’s contribution and introduction of plant medicine to occidental culture is immeasurable. Co-authorship (with brother Terence) of “The Invisible Landscape” (1975) and “Psilocybin, Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide: A Handbook for Psilocybin Enthusiasts” (initially published in 1976, a 2nd edition in 1986 and again in 1991) laid the foundation for a career path as educator, scientist and a voice of the (visionary) plant world. His articles published as early as the mid-eighties were som ...more
Brian
May 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As another one-star review said, you can tell the importance of a professional editor in books like these. His storytelling is verbose and boring, choosing to go off on uninteresting tangents. If he doesn't want to go to a certain city, why is he describing it to us? He glosses over the entire point of the book and leaves people in the dark about the brotherhood of the screaming abyss, simply stating it was something he did with his brother in the forest.

It's clear he has resentment towards Ter
...more
Nikita Petrov
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished the book and am left with a sentimental feeling. There's a soothing element to how matter-of-factly the remaining McKenna tells his and his brother's story—the way your grandpa would tell stories of his youth—except these particular stories include an abundance of magic mushrooms and DMT, wacky adventures in the jungles, a story of going legitimately mad for a couple of weeks, some drug smuggling, a UFO, a fake passport, issues with Interpol, a number of scientific discoveries, fri ...more
JJ W
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psych
I couldn't put it down, partly because of the voyeuristic thrill of getting closer to a brotherhood that has touched my lifecourse in so many ways. nicely written. an excellent Kickstarter project brought to fruition.
Seth
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a must read for fans of the mckenna brothers.

the first half of the book i especially enjoyed - the origin of their interests growing up as children, their coming of age tales of romance and drugs and mischief, and their adventures into the amazon basin. dennis's first hand recounting of the events during 'the experiment at la chorrera' is fascinating, and colors in lots of particular details for those of you who listen to many of terence's raps (via the psychedelic salon or the countless record
...more
Robin Billings
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Terence and Dennis deeply influenced my life from afar in 1976, with the publication of their first book, and again in 1982, when I heard Terence interviewed on New Dimensions radio with Michael Toms. I subsequently read their second work, The Invisible Landscape, carefully following Dennis' method to achieve "hypercarbolation," and was forever changed. I was amused, bemused, and inspired by Terence's audio tapes and the audio edition of True Hallucinations, released by his mail order company, L ...more
Niketa Malhotra
The book is a great read to understand Dennis and the life of those he is surrounded with. It gives a perspective on why he does what he does along with his brother Terrence McKenna. The author has a flair for writing and writes beautifully and eloquently most times. I also learnt a lot of new phrases and got an understanding of Catholic life and its impact on children.

The book seemed to have hints of the privileges, biases of heteropatriarchal, cisgendered, able-bodied White men. The book furth
...more
Sebastian Priotese
I always felt that Dennis was a mystery lodged deeply in Terence's persona and, to be fair, I was never as interested in what he had to say as I was in what Terence had, particularly because Terence's poetic ramblings struck a chord that Dennis's logical, matter-of-fact discourses couldn't. With this book, I have a newfound respect for him and I'm very glad that he decided to share some of his life with us. It's a sincere, well-written memoir, and so fraught with regret at times that it's almost ...more
Aleksa Rakic
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in what was it like to grow up as an open-minded nerd in the heart of psychedelic revolution, during the amazing period that seventies were, essential read! Dennis is good story teller (almost good as his brother Terrence was :))
Maros Pekarik
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this journey. Dennis's life is inspiring and unusual.
Nomi
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read to the 52% mark before setting it aside.
Joe
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are some interesting anecdotes in this 500 page autobiography but the main things that stands out are the lack of an editor and abundance of information of interest only to Dennis McKenna.
Matthew
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic story, well written and contains Dennis’ usual insight and sense of humour. A must read for any psychonaut or anyone whose a fan of his older brother Terence McKenna.
Chris Hall
Interesting at times but often dull. There's also this irritating habit of repeating set phrases throughout the book.

Dennis has said that he didn't really want to write this book but ended up having to because the work had met it's crowdfunding target and I think it shows.

The subtitle ('My Life with Terence McKenna') is also misleading as most of the content is concerned only with Dennis.
Open Books
"Tripseeker's guide to the Galaxy"

What is human being? Obiectively speaking, we are drops of protein, self-replicating on provintional planet revolving around one of lesser stars in the far corner of insignificant Milky Way galaxy. The civilisation we have created can be destroyed in a collision with a middle sized meteorite. What makes human being great is a power of his imagination and curiosity that leads us to stating big questions and courage in looking for the answers. Reaching beyond limi
...more
Gabrielle Mathieu
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wtf

The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss is a strange memoir. I can’t say it’s a fantastic read, and then again, I can’t dismiss it either. A Kickstarter project by Dr. Dennis McKenna, this biography not only explores the lives of Dennis and his more famous brother, Terrence, but also contains a fair amount of philosophy and science. It obviously has a niche audience, people who take and enjoy hallucinogens, and see a potential for consciousness-altering botanicals to be ingested as psychic medici
...more
Mark
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read.

Lightly details the McKennas' escapades and how it all came to fruition. Their goal at La Chorrera was to end time and enter hyperspace. However, the success of this is debated. Dennis remains critical of Terry's timewave theory. It has been heavily criticized by others too.

This book is part autobiography and part biography.

Mostly, though, it just details Dennis's life growing up and the women he did and didn't make it with. Not sure why so much space was used for that when the bo
...more
Bryan Winchell
Over the past decade and a half, I've enjoyed listening to the "bard" Terence McKenna, who is something of a legend in the psychedelic community for his ability to rap poetic on a number of far-out topics. As a result, I was introduced to his more grounded brother Dennis, who I've heard on several podcasts and who, while not as wild as Terence, is still a visionary thinker and can spin a good yarn. I enjoyed the first half of this book more than the latter half, mostly because the craziest stori ...more
Henrique Maia
If you heard about Terence McKenna, you probably know how weird, and inspiring, his ideas were. If you know Terence McKenna well enough, you also know who Dennis McKenna is and how instrumental Dennis was in Terence’s life. If you know a bit about Terence’s self-proclaimed biography, his experiments at La Chorrera, his predictions and how incredibly weird the whole experience was to Terence and Dennis, you probably want to know a bit more about it from a different perspective.

So this is it. Thi
...more
Pat Rolston
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very entertaining read for those who enjoy the writing of his brother Terrence and nicely fills in the adventures in search of Amazonian plant pharmacology. There is lots of family history that gets painful in so far as the difficult and complex relationship between the brothers. The path Dennis took ending up in Marine on St Croix, Minnesota provides much to enjoy. The encounters with shaman and the "vine of life" continue as a thread throughout as does the speculation as to the true ...more
Ian Cattanach
I met and chatted with Dennis this weekend at the free your mind conference. Seemed pretty cool I won't mention the vibes I picked up from him though.
Pretty good stuff, didn't really curb my suspicions of Terrence being involved with the feds though. His two library and notebook collections burning is icing on the cake with all of this. The writing is only ok, it would have sucked if I actually read this slowly but I know how to bomb through books. Really crazy accounts of the la chorrea experi
...more
Jim
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty far out there. I think he pretty much sums it up with this quote "If psychedelics teach us anything, it’s how fragile this constructed reality is, and how profoundly it can be distorted." Also confirms my creationist inclinations. I think they accurately describe their run in with UFOs as really dealing with "inner space" or as other people would say "inter-dimensional" beings. They were really not sure what they were dealing with. There are other confirmations out there that those that b ...more
Bruce
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are about 3 chapters that hold their own-- where Dennis with brother Terrance goes off the rails and dwells well outside consensus reality for a few weeks/months.

All the rest, yawn. Do you really want to know about the grandparents of Terrance McKenna? Do you really want to hear interspersed with almost every fact, the opinion of Dennis McKenna about the state of the world?

This is what happens when you take a non-writer artist and give them the biggest ever crowdfunding advance on their bo
...more
Brendan
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think that Dennis has done himself a mild disservice in the subtitling of this book; the story that he tells here, despite the presence of Terence McKenna, is mainly of his own life. That said, this is a beautiful book, containing a fantastic story of a life well-lived, and providing an interesting alternate view of one of the most fascinating humans to ever walk the planet. While Dennis may lack the trickster wit of his brother, he more than compensates for it with his entirely heartfelt writ ...more
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BSA Book Discussion: General 10 38 Jan 20, 2013 01:50PM  

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Dennis Jon McKenna is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer and author. He who has studied plant hallucinogens for over forty years.
He earned his Master's degree in botany at the University of Hawaii, and his Doctorate in Botanical Sciences from the University of British Columbia.
Since that time, he has conducted extensive ethnobotanical fieldwork in the Peruvian, C
...more

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“Psychedelics are not suppressed because they are dangerous to users; they’re suppressed because they provoke unconventional thought, which threatens any number of elites and institutions that would rather do our thinking for us.” 5 likes
“Every culture has its own creation myth, its own cosmology. And in some respects every cosmology is true, even if I might flatter myself in assuming mine is somehow truer because it is scientific. But it seems to me that no culture, including scientific culture, has cornered the market on definitive answers when it comes to the ultimate questions. Science may couch its models in the language of mathematics and observational astronomy, while other cultures use poetry and sacrificial propitiations to defend theirs. But in the end, no one knows, at least not yet. The current flux in the state of scientific cosmology attests to this, as we watch physicists and astronomers argue over string theory and multiverses and the cosmic inflation hypothesis. Many of the postulates of modern cosmology lie beyond, or at least at the outer fringes, of what can be verified through observation. As a result, aesthetics—as reflected by the “elegance” of the mathematical models—has become as important as observation in assessing the validity of a cosmological theory. There is the assumption, sometimes explicit and sometimes not, that the universe is rationally constructed, that it has an inherent quality of beauty, and that any mathematical model that does not exemplify an underlying, unifying simplicity is to be considered dubious if not invalid on such criteria alone. This is really nothing more than an article of faith; and it is one of the few instances where science is faith-based, at least in its insistence that the universe can be understood, that it “makes sense.” It is not entirely a faith-based position, in that we can invoke the history of science to support the proposition that, so far, science has been able to make sense, in a limited way, of much of what it has scrutinized. (The psychedelic experience may prove to be an exception.)” 2 likes
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