Scientists Want to Know More About DMT Entities People Encounter
DMT is one of the most potent entheogens known to man, and the trip it induces is significantly different than other psychoactive substances. Users describe being transported to a distant realm where they meet seemingly autonomous entities, and often those same entities appear to different people. Now, researchers are attempting to catalog these experiences to figure out just what, or who, those DMT entities are.
DMT comes in more than one form and is an endogenous compound found in a multitude of plants, animals, and humans. Since it was synthesized in 1956 by Hungarian chemist Stephen Szara, it has baffled both users and researchers alike.
Recently, Dr. Roland Griffiths, a behavioral psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University, published a questionnaire asking anyone who has taken DMT and met autonomous entities–beings that seem to act independently of one’s self–to provide details of their experience.
The questionnaire asks about dosage and whether users had a “breakthrough” experience, which is sometimes referred to as “blasting off.” During these higher doses, users feel as if they were transported outside their bodies to another dimension by seeming to breakthrough a membrane of sorts – not unlike being reborn into a psychedelic plane.
In a separate study, Dr. Rick Strassman and Andrew Gallimore have proposed an experiment to keep someone in the DMT realm for an extended period through intravenous administration. The idea was inspired by one of Strassman’s clinical tests involving four psychedelic doses given to subjects, during which themes and a storyline evolved over the course of multiple trips.
These studies hope to uncover some of the similarities between disparate participants’ trips to see if the DMT realm may actually exist outside human consciousness, rather than being a product of it.
Thought leaders in the psychedelic world including Terrence McKenna, Graham Hancock, and Daniel Pinchbeck have provided some interesting insights into their own experiences consuming DMT, Ayahuasca, and similar variants; below are some of their stories.
DMT Aliens and Elves
Terrence McKenna, the eminent psychonaut who devoted his life to exploring the many realms of the psychedelic experience, distilled his 30 to 40 DMT trips down to one general experience when speaking to an audience in 1994.
During this speech, he painted a picture in his audience’s mind that became a common description of specific entities many claim to have met during a DMT session. Though he conceded that words were insufficient to describe them, he referred to them as the machine elves.
McKenna described his experience and the approximate amount of DMT needed to be smoked to achieve the “breakthrough.” From there, he describes hearing an ever increasing, high-pitched noise, similar to the sound of ripping cellophane or a crackling flame, before physically breaking through a membrane and arriving in the DMT reality – a place completely alien from the reality we know.
McKenna names this place the dome, the first archetypal location that he acknowledges DMT “aficionados” will know what he’s referring to. Many people find themselves in this domed, usually subterranean, place characterized by its jeweled, geodesic, and fractalized qualities.
There McKenna describes being met by the so-called machine elves who cheer “hooray” and are clearly enthralled by his presence. He references the Pink Floyd lyrics, “the gnomes have learned a new way to say ‘hooray,’” believing they may be referencing a similar psychedelic experience, that same archetype of the machine gnome.
McKenna says they tell him they’re happy he’s made it and that he doesn’t visit often enough. He describes the elves, not like we might imagine elves, but as squeaking, jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs made of grammar and light.
These DMT entities keep him on task and prevent him from being too awestruck by the wonders he sees. Instead they encourage him to create physical reality through song, like they do.
Acknowledging that roughly five percent of users experience these similar visions and sensations, McKenna had clearly done some research to uncover the learnings that Dr. Griffiths is searching for.
McKenna also described his experiences with DMT as alien, imagining that if aliens exist they might hide in these experiences. He imagines an ethical extraterrestrial entity perceiving humans as “hard-headed, rationalists,” that only open themselves up to mystical experiences by ingesting psychedelic compounds, or as he puts it “getting loaded.”
Though many find the DMT trip to be too bizarre to attach any profundity to, McKenna found it deeply meaningful. He believed it could be a glimpse into reality after death, a parallel spirit realm existing not too far from our own.
This takeaway seems to be more common from DMT’s more spiritual medium; the Ayahusca brew. Graham Hancock, among others, shares that sentiment.
Graham Hancock’s Ayahuasca Entities
Hancock has been a vociferous proponent of the medicinal power of Ayahuasca in shamanic ceremonies. An avid consumer, Hancock says he participates in these rituals multiple times per year, touting the medicine as having cured him of a lifetime of chronic migraines and a cannabis habit he realized had negative impacts on his life.
But when he speaks about his experiences with the DMT-containing Ayahuasca, he says he experiences a recurring entity that is always concerned with his well-being. He refers to this DMT entity as Mother Ayahuasca.
Hancock says he believes every adult has the right to choose to use cannabis and that he believes it has practical uses, but he found his chronic abuse was beginning to wear on his life and his partner. After decades of using cannabis, he was told by Mother Ayahuasca that the plant was no longer serving him. He said she reviewed his life and showed him his death, depicting what would happen if he continued on his path.
Hancock stopped using the plant, explaining that it felt as if a monkey was lifted off his back, leading to a mental clarity that improved nearly every aspect of his life.
But Hancock also points out that there are other entities in the DMT realm that don’t have our best interests in mind. He mentions negative entities that want to hoodwink us, much like an archetypal demon. He says he met many of these entities when he was shown his death, describing them like something out of a Hieronymus Bosh painting.
That Ayahuasca Mother Hancock so endearingly references, often shows itself in the form of animals as well. A snake is a common entity taken by Mother Ayahuasca, and in his book, The Cosmic Serpent, Jeremy Narby asserts that the DNA double helix was shown to humans through the serpentine entities of Ayahuasca.
The serpent has been represented throughout various cultural symbols, such as the caduceus, kundalini life force, the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl, and the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Jaguars are another DMT entity often experienced through Ayahuasca. In fact, shamans are said to be able to physically turn into a jaguar at will, something attained through becoming one with this entity over the course of many ceremonies.
Daniel Pinchbeck’s DMT Demons
With many psychedelic experiences, users are often confronted with bottled-up emotions, forcing them to deal with issues that may not be pleasant – the death of the ego, as it were. These feelings, buried under layers of emotional scar tissue, can be difficult to deal with and can manifest in the form of ostensibly physical demons.
This can be incredibly frightening during the trip, but users often report a sense of accomplishment or closure for dealing with them after the fact. The term ‘confronting your demons’ can become very literal on psychotropic compounds.
But with DMT, this isn’t always the case. Rather than entities born from individual emotion, people describe meeting entirely autonomous entities, so bizarre and alien that one can’t possibly imagine having created them with their mind. Hence, the reason Dr. Griffiths is so intrigued.
In his book, Breaking Open the Head, Daniel Pinchbeck describes meeting negative autonomous entities that continued to haunt him for weeks after his trip with a DMT molecular variant called DPT.
Similar to some accounts of DMT entities, Pinchbeck said the beings he encountered expressed disdain or pity for his presence as a mere human. Others have said they experienced indifference from DMT entities or messages saying, “Ok, you’ve seen it, now leave.”
But with DPT, Pinchbeck was subjected to a terrifying world of gothic insects, lizards and winged creatures, describing it as a postmodern demonic MTV psychedelic. He realized in retrospect that taking a drug of that magnitude without the shamanic ceremonial aspect was disrespectful and maybe a factor in his frightening experience.
In the weeks following, Pinchbeck had strange synchronicities, bizarre dreams, and what he describes as a poltergeist in his apartment. Mirrors fell off the wall in the night, strange foreign bugs appeared, and unusual physical sensations plagued him. He confirmed the presence of negative energy with others and held an exorcism to rid himself of them.
In the end, a Buddhist meditation helped purge him of the demon, bringing his life back to normal. To Pinchbeck, the entities met on this DMT analogue couldn’t have been more real or more autonomous.
It’s hard to tell whether Dr. Griffiths and his colleagues will be able to uncover just what or who exactly these DMT entities are based solely on stories from strangers on the internet. Dr. Rick Strassman conducted a more in-depth experiment with his work creating the book and documentary, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, though Griffiths comes from a different filed of expertise.
Are these entities really autonomous beings living in a parallel dimension not too far from our own, and will probing deeper give us a better understanding of how they may relate to reality as we know it?
Psilocybin and Depression; Psychedelics Can Reset Brain Function
Psychotropic plants once considered taboo are now being used as highly effective clinical solutions for treating a number of psychological issues, including depression, PTSD, and end-of-life anxiety. And a recent study has gained the most traction with its successful treatment of depression with psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms. The study found evidence of a reset mechanism in the brain that can have lasting effects. But, can psychedelics cure depression?
Psilocybin & Depression
A calm, relaxed feeling in the hours, days, and weeks after using psilocybin is familiar to those who have taken it before. This is sometimes referred to as an “after-glow,” and many attribute this to the sense of profundity or universal insight acquired during the experience. This sensation is often subjective and fleeting – something that would be difficult to measure in a lab.
But now a team of researchers has set out to measure this feeling and the potential it has for use as a clinical treatment for depression and anxiety. These researchers believe they have possibly recorded this reaction and noticed a reconfiguration of the pathways that are narrowed down in people who experience severe depression and anxiety. Their research appears to show what they call a disintegration and reintegration in which psilocybin acts as a “reset mechanism.”
This test, conducted by researchers at Imperial College in London, looked not only at subjective measures of how patients felt in the days and weeks after but also brain scans to monitor cerebral blood flow and functional connectivity. The scientists focused on the amygdala, an area of the brain where emotion, behavior, and motivation is processed, noticing that decreased cerebral blood flow to that particular location correlated with reduced depressive symptoms.
The amygdala is directly connected to the prefrontal cortex, controlling a sort of back and forth process for measuring fear. This is basically where your fight or flight response plays out. The amygdala acts as our alarm system, sending a signal to the prefrontal cortex, which in turn tells it whether that threat is something to actually be concerned about. It’s thought that higher activity in the amygdala leads to lower activity in the prefrontal cortex which causes anxiety and depression.
This has led scientists to see psilocybin as an appropriate medicine for people experiencing anxiety and depression. But psilocybin isn’t the only psychedelic shown to have this effect. And while these material observations seem to correlate things like blood flow and electrical activity with those positive changes, some still maintain that the mystical psychedelic experience rather than the plant is what is so palliative.
LSD for Depression
Similar studies have been undertaken with LSD in place of psilocybin, providing many similar results. The most well-known trials have been conducted by MAPS, the Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a group that has been working on advancing clinical research with psychedelic and empathic drugs for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
A 2014 study administered LSD to 12 patients experiencing severe depression, anxiety, and end-of-life anxiety, 11 of whom had never taken the drug before. Nearly all who completed the trials expressed the desire to receive more treatments in the future due to their notably positive experiences.
One subject said the experience caused a marked shift in her values to make time for things that were more important in life, like family. Another subject with end-of-life anxiety found that after her LSD experience she found humor in her illness and looked at herself as part of a larger cosmic entity rather than an individual. Meanwhile, all subjects reported no lasting adverse side effects after the experience.
While these clinical studies show promise and work well in closely monitored environments with professional psychotherapy sessions to accompany them, many remain unconvinced due to the small set of studies and subject samples. But this is primarily due to strict laws preventing these trials as well as difficulty obtaining these compounds from “legitimate sources.”
However, a recent shift in the public perception regarding psychedelics and cannabis seems to be bucking the trend. Meanwhile, groups like MAPS and the Beckley Foundation are helping to ease the stigma, stating that they believe certain psychoactive drugs will be approved for clinical use within the next several years.
Ketamine Depression Treatment
Clinical trials for treating depression with LSD and psilocybin often lead critics and journalists to harken back to the ’60s and make some clichéd quip about the hippie generation, or their brief stint experimenting with drugs in college. But when it comes to ketamine, personal anecdotes are few and far between. This drug, which tends to also fall into the recreational club-drug scene, has shown some profound results when it comes to its potential for treating severe depression, especially for those who are suicidal.
Though ketamine for treating depression is considered use as an off-label drug, one that is used for a purpose other than what it is labeled for, it has shown unprecedented results. Typically used as an anesthetic, in large doses ketamine is a highly psychoactive hallucinogen, and also an antidepressant.
People who are suicidal and have not had success with typical antidepressants have seen drastic changes within a few hours of ketamine treatment. Researchers believe that ketamine acts on glutamate, rather than serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals most antidepressants focus on. This particular channel can cause drastic changes and overnight transformation in attitudes of people suffering from severe depression.
Of course, doses high enough to achieve this effect are incapacitating and can be difficult to deal with. The psychedelic effect of ketamine can lead to “k-holes” or feelings of intense and sometimes frightening psychedelic experiences often paired with paralysis. This has lead doctors to search for drugs that can target the glutamate in the brain, but skip the burdensome trip.
While these drugs have amazing potential to help solve mental issues that plague large percentages of society, there needs to be a shift in drug policy to allow them to be rescheduled. All of these drugs are Schedule 1, classified as having no medical value, but clearly there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
While their use should be monitored and taken in controlled scenarios, their criminalization prevents people from taking advantage of the positive results scientists are seeing. And when an effective drug is made illegal, it can lead to those who need it seeking it out on the street where purity and quality aren’t guaranteed.