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
59 ancient coffins, buried for 2,600 years, discovered in incredible archaeological find in Egypt
(TMU) – 59 well-preserved and sealed wooden coffins were recently discovered by archeologists in Egypt, and it is possible that there could be even more waiting to be discovered.
Three weeks ago researchers first announced that they found 13 coffins, and then further searches in the area revealed that there were even more. Scientists estimate that the coffins were buried over 2,500 years ago, and some of the remains were wrapped in burial cloth that showed hieroglyphic inscriptions.
The discovery was made in the burial ground of Saqqara, which is located just south of Cairo, near the 4,700-year-old pyramid of Djoser.
“We are very happy about this discovery,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in the Egyptian government.
Egypt says archaeologists unearthed dozens of ancient coffins in a vast necropolis south of Cairo. An official says most of the at least 59 sealed sarcophagi had mummies inside. They were buried in three wells more than 2,600 years ago. https://t.co/c2pYwG9iHi
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 3, 2020
Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said that the coffins can be dated back to the Late Period of ancient Egypt, which is estimated to be from the sixth or seventh century BC.
59 coffins were discovered at a BURIAL site in Egypt. Lol is this a teaser of 2020’s season finale??
— jules guiang 🇵🇭 (@JULESguiang) October 4, 2020
“I have witnessed the opening of one of the coffins … the mummy seems as if it was mummified yesterday,” al-Anani said, according to Aljazeera.
Other artifacts have been discovered as well, including a bronze figurine depicting Nefertem, an ancient god of the lotus blossom, as well as mummified animals like snakes, birds, scarab beetles. Dozens of statues were also found in the same area that the coffins were discovered.
It is suspected that the coffins belonged to high ranking figures in ancient Egyptian society, likely from the 26th dynasty.
The coffins will be taken to the Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza Plateau, which is currently being built. The museum is expected to open soon, but the opening has already been delayed several times. At this point, the most recent opening date for the museum is planned for 2021.
Major #archaeological #discovery in #Saqqara❗️
59 sealed sarcophagi, with #mummies inside most of them, were found that had been buried in three wells more than 2,600 years ago. The decorated coffins were made for priests, top officials and elites from the Pharaonic Late Period. pic.twitter.com/RD4tnZzu1a
— INSIDE EGYPT (@InsideEgypt) October 3, 2020
The museum will feature an entire hall dedicated to the sarcophagi that were found in the region, and this hall will reportedly hold the new discoveries.
Saqqara, where the discovery was made features numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, which is sometimes called the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastaba tombs.
Saqqara and the surrounding areas of Abusir and Dahshur suffered damage by looters during the 2011 Egyptian protests. Storerooms were broken into, but the monuments were mostly unharmed. A series of discoveries have been made at the site in recent years. Some findings have been dated back to as far as 4,000 years ago.
What Artists From Over 100 Years Ago Thought The Year 2000 Would Look Like
(TMU) – Art from the past is fascinating, from the most basic rock art, to the most detailed and realistic, the bizarre, the fantastical, the surreal and the futuristic, art provides us with insight into cultures and history. Visual records of the lives, struggles, triumphs and beliefs during the evolution of human kind.
Throughout our evolution, there has always been forward thinkers, those who could envisage a very different future, such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), best known as an artist, he was also an architect, scientist and inventor with the vision and imagination to create, on paper, inventions such as the bicycle, the helicopter and an airplane.
Perhaps da Vinci innovative ideas inspired artists through the centuries that followed, such as those created by French Jean-Marc Cote and others in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910 who were asked to imagine what life would be like in the year 2020. The futuristic images they created were originally in the form of postcards or cards enclosed in cigarette boxes.
These pictures were created before the second industrial revolution and high tech machinery and flying machines. Life was much simpler, food was still grown organically and the world still had clean air, rivers and oceans. Many of the illustrations turned out to be quite accurate, such as machines for farming, robotic equipment, flying machines, underwater breathing apparatus, and sadly, weapons of war. The buildings, clothing and hairstyles seemed to remain in the previous century.
Over 100 years have passed and some of those artists may have lived to see some of their ideas become reality. Unfortunately the third revolution brought with it innovations that propelled the modern human into an easier, faster lifestyle for those who could afford it. Machines and appliances do the work, in the home and workplace. Motor cars, appliances, pre-packed food, fast food and waste, so much waste! With not a thought of the consequences. Our air and water polluted by chemicals, of rivers and oceans choked by our single use waste and not just our planet, but our health suffering under the strain.
How would we, and the artists of our world depict life on earth in 2099, 2100, 2101 and 2110?
World’s largest mammoth graveyard found near Mexico City with over 200 skeletons from Ice Age
As construction workers race to complete building Mexico City’s new international airport, archaeologists have stumbled on the world’s largest graveyard of mammoths, with officials saying on Thursday that the number has risen to at least 200.
Experts believe that the site, which lies about 30 miles (50 km) north of the capital’s downtown at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base in the state of Mexico, is now the world’s largest concentration of skeletons belonging to the extinct Ice Age mammal – and a large number of them are still yet to be excavated.
The humongous creatures are believed to have died between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, when the region was the site of a number of ancient lakes that both attracted and trapped the extinct relative of modern elephants.
Other Ice Age mammals have also been found at the nearly 200 excavation sites, including about 200 mammoths, 25 camels, and five horses, archaeologists with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) say.
Around 24,000 years ago, the geography of the region was a lush and vibrant place filled with sprawling grassland and lakes that attracted herds of mammoths.
“This place was like a paradise,” lead INAH archaeologist Ruben Manzanilla Lopez told Reuters, adding that the melting of the last glaciers happened at a time when ancient species of horses, camels, and buffalo thrived in the extremely muddy shorelines of the region.
“Then over many years the same story repeated itself: The animals ventured too far, got trapped and couldn’t get their legs out of the muck,” Manzanilla added.
Wild horses largely died out in North America at the end of the last ice age, and only returned during the Spanish invasion of the Americas, beginning with Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the West Indies in 1493 and continuing with the arrival of Hernan Cortes in Mexico in 1519.
A number of compelling finds are still being made at the site, including evidence that humans constructed tools from the bones of the massive creatures. The site lies roughly 12 miles from artificial pits or shallow mammoth traps dug by early inhabitants to trap and kill the creatures.
The flint arrows, spears, and rudimentary shallow water pits suggest that early humans may have also played a role in wiping out the lumbering beasts.
“What caused these animals’ extinction, everywhere there is a debate, whether it was climate change or the presence of humans. I think in the end the decision will be that there was a synergy effect between climate change and human presence,” paleontologist Joaquin Arroyo Cabrales told Associated Press.
However, the pure volume of mammoth remains unearthed – comprised of extraordinarily well-preserved skeletons including their long and curling tusks – is what has come as a shock.
“We had the idea that we’d find mammoth remains, but not this many,” Manzanilla said.
The sheer glut of mammoth remains at the Santa Lucía site is such that INAH observers are now accompanying construction workers using bulldozers to make sure that work halts when bones are found.
Manzanilla is confident that when the excavations are complete, the site will likely rank higher than similar sites in the United States and Siberia as the largest deposit of mammoth skeletons.
A museum-style mammoth exhibit is also being planned for the main terminal of the new commercial airport.
The Valley of Mexico was once a verdant and lush region rich in biodiversity that teemed with interconnected lakes and countless rivers. In 1325, the Aztecs or Tenochcas began building what would later become the major metropolis of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, on a rock in Lake Texcoco.
However, in the 1600s the Spanish colonizers began draining the lakes in a bid to rein in annual floods and accompanying disease resulting from the region’s torrential rain seasons.
In the 20th century, local authorities continued to pave over the 45 rivers that still cut through the growing city. The process of urbanization transformed Mexico City into a dry, dusty, and smoggy region teeming with busy roads and working-class neighborhoods.
— victor solis (@visoor) September 8, 2020
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