Podcast host Joe Rogan, the current pied piper of psychedelics.
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It might be time to expand your mind.
In a world where mainstream news sources are steadily increasing the chasm of understanding between human beings, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE podcast is a media phenomenon showcasing a wide array of voices and ideas — many that serve to remind us of our shared humanity. Rogan’s show, which routinely clocks millions of views per episode, takes a slow burn, longform approach to interviewing that’s devoid of edits and hype. The podcast version of an Errol Morris outtake, the tape rolls and the conversations unfold in a sort of cinema verité style. One of the best aspects of the show is that a conversation can go in virtually any direction at anytime. While Rogan has found himself occasionally ensnared in petty controversies over guest choices, given the wide breadth of personality types he’s invited on his over 1,431 episodes — not to mention his expansive 3 to 4 hour format — he generally hits all the notes necessary for good viewing. With a roster spanning from notable physicists, authors and entrepreneurs to extreme athletes, A-list actors and presidential hopefuls — including Elon Musk, Laird Hamilton, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Edward Norton, Mike Tyson, Richard Dawkins and Michael Pollan — the show goes further afield than any current media company can or will go.
And then there’s Rogan’s interviews about psychedelics — a treasure trove of some of the most insightful interviews that exist today on the topic of mind-altering states.
Six years ago, Rogan’s interview with Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), presented an early, sneak peek at the long-term research being conducted on MDMA (aka, ecstasy) to treat PTSD in war vets and firefighters. To date, Doblin’s organization has raised over $70 million from donors since 1986 and is currently in final Phase 3 trials with the Food and Drug Administration to potentially legalize MDMA to treat PTSD alongside assisted therapy. Holding a doctorate in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Doblin later said of the FDA clinical trials and MAPS’s scientific approach to legalization, “Science is the vehicle in our culture that we trust,” and is perhaps one of the reasons why MAPS has experienced success.
Jump to 2018 and Rogan’s interview with Michael Pollan, author of the groundbreaking book How To Change Your Mind (a work that shattered the glass ceiling of psychedelic exploration) and Pollan’s chronicling of various encounters on LSD, ayahuasca, magic mushrooms and 5-MeO-DMT (toad venom). The then 62-year-old straight-edge author — who prior to research for that book had limited experience with psychedelics and is better known for his bestselling books In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma — willingly catapulted himself into the stratosphere of psychedelics. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the current state of consciousness-altering substances. Alongside other very expansive moments in the interview, Pollan describes the white-knuckle ride he faced after inhaling toad venom, which he admits he wasn’t a big fan of. “You take one puff, and before you exhale, you’re shot out of a cannon, there’s no lead up, no warm up. It’s like FUMPT!” said Pollan. “I felt like I was actually strapped to the outside of a rocket, going through space and through clouds, the g-forces pulling down my cheeks.” Making his way through the miasma of the experience, Pollan described an incredible feeling of gratitude he had when making his way back to ordinary consciousness. “I was grateful for the fact that there was something and not nothing,” he said. “Because I’d seen what nothing was like.” Pollan’s book, and his captivating interview with Rogan, has unquestionably helped move the needle regarding the acceptance of psychedelics as tools of positive growth.
In early 2019 there was another notable interview: when Iron Mike Tyson took to the mic on Rogan’s show describing his profound experience on 5-MeO-DMT — having a very different encounter from Pollan’s. “I look at life differently, I look at people differently. It’s almost like dying and being reborn,” said Tyson, describing the event from two months prior. “It’s inconceivable. I tried to explain it to some people, to my wife, I don’t have the words to explain it. It’s almost like you’re dying, you’re submissive, you’re humble, you’re vulnerable — but you’re invincible still in all.”
Later that same year, notable mycologist Paul Stamets, who has devoted his life to the study of fungi, described in glorious detail the synapse-like web present beneath mushrooms (called mycelium) that can run for miles and create subterranean circuit boards that help to restore ailing trees and transmit vital nutrients across vast stretches of forest floor. During that segment, Stamets relayed a heart-rending story about his personal challenges with stuttering as a young man and one mind-blowing afternoon taking a whopping amount of magic mushrooms during a lightning storm. It was an event that completely changed his life.
Rogan’s psychedelic-centric conversations include talks with icons like Dennis McKenna (brother of Terence McKenna) and Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. — the latter, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine — and Aubrey Marcus, who revealed the details of an incredible ayahuasca trip he experienced. Then there’s Hamilton Morris, a journalist and pharmacological sleuth best known for his illuminating and entertaining television series Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, who broke down the essence of a productive psychedelic endeavor and the benefit in approaching life from a non-fearful perspective where the intention is to learn.
“You can extract a lot from a psychedelic experience — including the difficult experiences,” said Morris. “This is what is maybe the hardest thing to communicate about psychedelics, is that it’s the difficult ones which are often the best. Those are the ones that really teach you something. When you’re trying to talk about psychedelics with someone who’s never used them, it’s not a great selling point to say: ‘You know, the best thing that can happen to you is you think that you’re gonna die.’ Because that’s a confrontation with the overarching fear — the fear that generates all other fears. If you conquer that fear, your life will almost certainly improve.”
Stay tuned for what will certainly be more entertaining and enlightening segments from Rogan on the topic of psychedelics. He’s endlessly fascinated by them, so you can count on that. As one viewer recently pointed out in the comments of a segment, “Joe made it exactly one hour into the podcast before first mentioning DMT. Proud of you, Joe.”