A Cultural History of DMT
DMT, proper name N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, also known as the “spirit molecule,” and perhaps best known as the active compound in Ayahuasca, is a psychedelic compound known to induce altered states of consciousness including, bliss, oneness, transcendence, out of body experiences, and occasionally, terrifyingly deep self-realizations. This week on Lucid Planet Radio I interviewed Australian anthropologist and author Graham St John about his new book, Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT. This book, the first and only cultural history of DMT, weaves together neurochemistry, aesthetics, spirituality, technology, ethnobotany and more to trace the effect of DMT’s release into our cultural bloodstream. You can listen to the whole interview here on Lucid Planet Radio.
Ever since Hugarian psychopharmacologist Stephen Szara first discovered the psychoactive properties of DMT in the 1950’s, it has been slowly infused into Western cultures: The CIA investigated its psychotogenic effects, while artists like Burroughs, Ginsberg, the Grateful Dead, Alex Grey, and Shpongle were motivated by its psychedelic effects. Scientists like Timothy Leary and Rick Strassman studied its psychopharmacological and phenomenological significance. And stand-up philosopher Terence McKenna, enthused by the discovery that DMT is naturally present in many plants, animals, and the human brain itself, became its global emissary.
The status of DMT as “the brain’s own psychedelic” has fired speculation about its role as a gateway to higher dimensional consciousness. The debate surrounding the implications of the so-called “spirit molecule” continues today among explorers of all backgrounds—scientists, psychonauts, theologians, artists and festival-goers alike.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating elements of the DMT experience is the consistent theme of communication with a wide variety of alleged “interdimensional beings.” The phenomenon has been repeatedly detailed in numerous anecdotal accounts, ranging from the legendary stories of the late, great Terence McKenna, all the way to that dude next to you at the Hummingbird stage at Sonic Bloom last year blowing pungent moth-ball smelling smoke into your vicinity.
Who are the DMT Entities?
Multiple stories about the DMT beings are documented in Dr. Rick Strassman’s book, “DMT The Spirit Molecule,” based upon his groundbreaking research in which 60 volunteers at the University of New Mexico were injected with DMT in over 400 sessions during the course of 5 years. Because it can be very difficult to write during an intense DMT trip, and sometimes equally hard to recall what happened after the fact, researchers sat with participants and took notes as they detailed their experiences real-time. Over 50% of the 1,000 pages of notes had some kind of reference to interactions with entities. Likewise, Philip Meyer spent two decades collecting over 300 DMT trip reports and identified contact with sentient, independently existing beings in over 66% of them. Terence McKenna also wrote and spoke about his interactions with these entities at length, including the continuously emerging archetype of the spirit guide “teacher” – who with alien, insect-like and interstellar qualities, “was somehow a diplomatic anthropologist, come to give us the keys to galactic citizenship.”
According to Graham St. John’s synthesis of quite a large body of research and anecdotal reports of DMT encounters in Chapter 12 of Mystery School in Hyperspace, DMT entities are usually reported to fall into one (or more) of these categories:
- Playful, prankish and/or ornery “Machine Elves” (or “gnomes” and “tykes” as McKenna puts it) who often focus on joking or helping to clean the individual
- Anthropomorphic beings (who appear to be “extra terrestrial” or “ultra-dimensional” teachers or guardians) including reptiles, bees, spiders, cacti, mantises, arachnids, robots, jellyfish, octopods, and…. clowns.
- “Helpers” or “guides” taking the semi humanoid form of angels or multidimensional teachers. These can often manifest as deceased loved ones or family members giving guidance and teaching lessons, and are known to include religious icons and prophets like Buddha, Jesus Christ, Krishna, Mohammed, and more.
- Sci-fi aliens fitting descriptions of greys, blues, reptilians, Pleidans, Arcturians and more, employing the use of probes, implants, or surgeries usually for ‘research or ‘healing purposes.’
- Some type of “galactic council” of spiritual elders looking to impart knowledge, laws and instructions for behavior
Across these accounts, the beings are often reported to have an “awareness of us” as Dr. Rick Strassman puts it, with entities themselves often reacting to the presence of the DMT user either by welcoming them as travelers, royalty or long-lost family, treating them as thought they have won a contest or game-show, or sometimes, with surprise and shock as if the DMT user were an intruder or unwelcome.
SO… ARE these DMT Entities Sentient Beings Living in Other Dimensions?!?!
As St. John reminds us in Mystery School in Hyperspace, the debate over the subject of entity contact in the DMT-verse has been hotly contested by scientists, psychonauts, philosophers and theologians, “with skirmishes flaring in Cyberspace over the past twenty years.” Based upon the DMT trip reports he collected over two decades, Peter Meyer, author of Terence McKenna’s Timewave Zero Software, advanced the following potential theories of entities commonly reported by DMT users:
1) There are no alien entities at all; it’s merely a subjective hallucination/ emergence of psychological archetypes.
2) DMT provides access to a parallel plane or higher dimension inhabited by independently existing intelligent entities.
3) DMT allows awareness of processes at a cellular or even atomic level, maybe even of quantum mechanical processes at the atomic or subatomic level.
4) As a neurotransmitter, DMT causes the older parts of the reptilian brain to dominate consciousness, resulting in a state of awareness that appears totally alien.
5) Psychedelic tryptamines are the biochemical means by which we contact the creator(s)/the divine/God.
6) DMT provides access to the afterlife/world of the dead and the entities are the souls, or personalities, of the departed.
7) DMT entities are beings who have mastered the art of time travel and can communicate with humans without physically materializing.
8) The entities are probes from an extraterrestrial or an extradimensional species set out to make contact with organisms such as ourselves who are able to manipulate their nervous systems in a way that allows the communication to take place.
Of these, Meyer himself favored numbers 2 and 6, speculating that “just as birth is a transition from the womb to a higher-dimensional and vastly more complex world, so death (if the mental body is sufficiently developed) is a transition from the world of physical life to the higher-dimensional and vastly more complex world of the DMT entities.” (except of Meyer 2008 in from St. John, 2015)
And yet, we have barely scratched the surface of the theories that have been put forward by various scientists and philosophers about the DMT entities discussed in St. John’s book, such as:
- DMT enables us to re-access our perinatal memories (Stanislav Grof)
- The DMT beings are a part of neuro-scientific loop of psychedelic information processing (James Kent)
- Ingesting high doses exogenous DMT stimulates and reconstitutes ancient brain function (Andrew Gallimore)
- DMT is the missing link connecting us to beings from ancient shamanic realms through information encoded into our DNA (Graham Hancock)
- DMT creates mystical visionary states connecting us to God, similar to the prophets of the Hebrew Bible (Rick Strassman).
We have no concrete answers here, only self-reported experiences and theories. Scientifically, it is very challenging, if not impossible, to objectively “prove” whether these beings exist in our reality, or in parallel planes or dimensions, or if they only exist independently in the minds of DMT users. For many of the researchers in this field, including Dr. Rick Strassman (who will be appearing on Lucid Planet Radio this Spring!) it is hard to deny the feeling of truth and consistency across people’s experiences. Indeed, according to St. John, Dr. Strassman has abandoned his strict psychoanalytic model, apparently accepting the authenticity of his subject’s reports. And if you have ever had a Level III DMT experience, you may have already drawn your own conclusions on the topic, regardless of what science might have to say about it.
As a psychologist, the most important part of all of this for me is not to objectively, scientifically come to a consensus about who/what the beings are, but to understand and accept that these experiences are loaded with incredible, life-altering meaning for the people who have them. Graham St. John and I discussed this during our interview and seem to arrive at the same conclusion: What matters is not if the beings are REAL in any objective sense, but how their subjective realness can influence people’s consciousness, behaviors, identity and understanding of themselves and their universe.
Communication with DMT entities can be absolutely profound and life-changing, regardless as to our objective standard for determining the validity of the entities or the experiences. Therefore, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, it is just as valuable to focus on the function of the entities and how they can inspire our future evolution and growth. Because as Graham St. John concludes, when it comes to objective proof of the entities,
“our likelihood of establishing their true identity is as futile as nailing the nature of…. God, once and for all.”
Have you ever met the DMT beings? Do you have a theory about who they are? Please share in the comments!
Featured image: “Net of Being” by Alex Grey
Posted here by Dr Kelly Neff, from The Lucid Planet
6 Year Old Finds Fossil In Family Garden That May be 488 Million Years Old
Children have a natural fascination with rocks, with many of us having spent some days as children standing awe-struck at our museums or science centers looking at dazzling arrays of stones, or learning about the different types that can be found out our local beaches, parks, or hiking trails.
However, none of us managed to make the sort of discovery that one young boy in the U.K. did.
Siddak Singh Jhamat, known as Sid, found a fossil in his garden that dates back millions of years.
Sid found the fossil in his backyard garden in the town of Walsall using a simple fossil-hunting kit he received as a gift, reports the BBC.
His father Vish Singh was then able to identify the fossil as a horn corral that dates back 251 to 488 million years with the help of a Facebook fossil group.
“I was just digging for worms and things like pottery and bricks and I just came across this rock which looked a bit like a horn, and thought it could be a tooth or a claw or a horn, but it was actually a piece of coral which is called horn coral,” Sid explained.
“I was really excited about what it really was.”
His father Vish added:
“We were surprised he found something so odd-shaped in the soil… he found a horn coral, and some smaller pieces next to it, then the next day he went digging again and found a congealed block of sand.
“In that there were loads of little molluscs and sea shells, and something called a crinoid, which is like a tentacle of a squid, so it’s quite a prehistoric thing.”
The father believes that the distinctive markings on the fossil make it a Rugosa coral, meaning it could be up to 488 million years old.
“The period that they existed from was between 500 and 251 million years ago, the Paleozoic Era,” Vish said.
“England at the time was part of Pangea, a landmass of continents. England was all underwater as well… that’s quite significant expanse of time.”
Researchers Find 50,000-Year-Old Frozen Body of Extinct Woolly Rhino in Siberia
Researchers in Siberia have stumbled upon the 50,000 year-old remains of a rare woolly rhinoceros that was trapped in permafrost.
The remains of the woolly rhino were excavated from the Abyisky district of the Sakha Republic. The rhino was first discovered by a local in Siberia named Alexei Savin, Business Insider reported.
Savvin stumbled upon the remarkable find walking near the Tirekhtyakh River in Yakutia, Siberia last August.
It’s worth noting that this woolly rhino was found close to the site where a previous baby woolly rhino named Sasha was discovered back in the year 2014. Woolly Rhinos were once believed to have been prevalent in Europe, Russia and northern Asia thousands upon thousands of years ago until they ended up extinct.
Paleontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic unveiled that the baby woolly rhino would have been approximately three to four years old when it died presumably from drowning.
The only other woolly rhino thus far that has been discovered in these regions — Sasha — was dated to be from around 34,000 years ago. However, Protopopov suggests that the newly discovered body could be anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 years old.
However, despite the body being there for so long according to Protopopov “among other things, part of the internal organs are preserved, which in the future will make it possible to study in more detail how the species ate and lived.”
Protopopov further added, “Earlier, not even the bone remains of individuals of this age were found, not to mention the preserved carcasses of animals. As a rule, these were either cubs or adults.”
A fellow paleontologist Valery Plotnikov from the Academy of Sciences further adds, “We have learned that woolly rhinoceroses were covered in very thick hair. Previously, we could judge this only from rock paintings discovered in France. Now, judging by the thick coat with the undercoat, we can conclude that the rhinoceroses were fully adapted to the cold climate very much from a young age.”
Isaac Newton’s Secret “Burnt” Notes Included Theory That Great Pyramids Predicted Apocalypse
Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most famous scientists of recorded history, left behind a large body of work that is still vital in our understanding of the world today. However, as with many public intellectuals, he also had plenty of work that was never shared with the public, even after his death.
Now, for the first time ever, some of these unpublished notes are being auctioned off, and these notes contain some of his most wild theories, and includes his thoughts on the occult, alchemy, and biblical apocalypse theory. Newton was known to dabble in the more esoteric realms of study, but very little written evidence remains about his specific thoughts on mystical topics.
Some of the remaining manuscript notes are currently being auctioned by Sotheby’s. The notes have been through a lot, and are obviously burned. The auctioneers claim that the notes were damaged in a fire that is believed to have been started by a candle that was accidentally toppled by Newton’s dog, Diamond.
According to the auction listing, “These notes are part of Newton’s astonishingly complex web of interlinking studies – natural philosophy, alchemy, theology – only parts of which he ever believed were appropriate for publication. It is not surprising that he did not publish on alchemy, since secrecy was a widely-held tenet of alchemical research, and Newton’s theological beliefs, if made public, would have cost him (at least) his career.”
The notes currently have a leading bid of £280,000, the equivalent of about $375,000.
In the notes, Newton speaks on some far-out topics that would surprise modern thinkers. For example, Newton’s notes include a theory that ancient Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza predicted the apocalypse. While it is unclear what logic he used to get to his conclusion, the theory began with his study of how the pyramids were designed according to an ancient Egyptian unit of measurement called the royal cubit.
While studying the pyramids and the cubit, Newton believed he developed an insight into sacred geometry, which somehow aligned with the apocalypse predictions in the bible.
“He was trying to find proof for his theory of gravitation, but in addition the ancient Egyptians were thought to have held the secrets of alchemy that have since been lost. Today, these seem disparate areas of study – but they didn’t seem that way to Newton in the 17th century,” Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s manuscript specialist, told The Guardian.
“It’s a wonderful confluence of bringing together Newton and these great objects from classical antiquity which have fascinated people for thousands of years. The papers take you remarkably quickly straight to the heart of a number of the deepest questions Newton was investigating,” Heaton added.
Interest in alchemy and mysticism was not unusual for serious scholars at the time, in fact, it was recognized as a legitimate field of scientific study.
“The idea of science being an alternative to religion is a modern set of thoughts. Newton would not have believed that his scientific work could undermine religious belief. He was not trying to disprove Christianity – this is a man who spent a long time trying to establish the likely time period for the biblical apocalypse. That’s why he was so interested in the pyramids,” Heaton said.