Part One: The Mysteries Of DMT
I experienced the most terrifying and profound drug trip of my life last month.
Yes, the following article details my experience of tripping on a hallucinogenic drug called DMT; but I promise it’s not an obnoxious recount of how silly it made me and my friends act or anything of that vein.
DMT, short for dimethyltryptamine (pronounced die-meth-ill-trip-ta-mean), is a chemical substance found in an enormous variety of plants. DMT is conjectured to be produced by the pineal gland of mammalian brains.
When smoked, DMT is perhaps the most powerful hallucinogen known to science – a statement about which I was sceptical only until I smoked it.
I need to pause here. I linked the word ‘conjectured’ above to an article that questions whether the brain’s pineal gland truly produces DMT.
The majority of what’s known about DMT was discovered by Dr. Rick Strassman, and expounded upon by him with clarity in DMT: The Spirit Molecule (not to be confused with the documentary
by the same name). Much of that is conjecture. Conjecture reached through careful scientific inferences, but conjecture nonetheless.
For example: Though it has been proven that humans produce natural endogenous DMT, there isn’t any direct scientific evidence that indicates the pineal gland plays a roll in its biosynthesis. In fact, science has yet to demonstrate that the human brain has anything to do with the production of DMT.
However, studies have shown that other mammalian brains (e.g. lab rats’ brains) produce DMT, so it may be conjectured (given that we know DMT is produced somewhere in the human body) that DMT biosynthesis occurs in human brains as well.
From there, we may conjecture that it originates in the pineal gland because, on the molecular level, DMT is analogous in structure to other neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, both of which are produced by the pineal gland. (More info here).
I say this for the sake of not having to use the word ‘conjecture’ every other sentence during this article, but also because – as much as I hate to admit it – much of what I’m about to say lacks scientific verification. When it comes down to it, that’s only because DMT is extremely illegal and the government doesn’t want you to know about it. Fuckin’ government, right?
Regardless, given my immense respect for science, I feel implored to make bleedingly clear that this is a recount of my subjective DMT trip. Having said that, part of any subjective experience involves the subject’s beliefs. So just keep in mind that I’m the subject, and I believe some stuff about DMT that isn’t scientifically verified.
You’ll understand in a moment why all this matters.
For some unknowable reason, our brains produce DMT at a higher rate when we enter REM sleep. It is, quite literally, the stuff that dreams are made of.
My initial interest in DMT was sparked by both its powerful nature and its connection to dreaming. Why did our species evolve in such a way? We know the purpose of structurally similar neurotransmitters; serotonin regulates our mood, while melatonin regulates our sleep cycle. So what does DMT regulate? What is it about the ability of our brains to excrete such a chemical that made our ancestors more apt in surviving and procreating than those born without it? The same can be asked of dreaming.
We all dream. Which – if you so happen to subscribe to the radical theory of evolution – means that dreaming must contribute some sort of benefit to a species’ ability to survive on Earth. It can’t be coincidental that those pre-homosapien ancestors of ours who dreamt just happened to out-live and out-fuck those who didn’t. In the very least, something about dreaming must fuel our desire to live and fuck, if not our ability. And without DMT, we wouldn’t dream.
There’s a lot of good theories surrounding DMT. I won’t delve into them, but the main hypothesis of Dr. Strassman’s work is that DMT explains the phenomena of near-death experience. In other words, your brain releases a surge of DMT at the (real or perceived) onset of death. Almost as though it’s a necessary component of reaching the afterlife.
I mean, were an afterlife – or spiritual realm – to indeed exist, must there not also exist some sort of physical attribute within us with which we connect to it? Wouldn’t there need to be a real, feasible link between us and the afterlife?
Perhaps this peculiar neurotransmitter is that link.
But I digress. For further info, please consult Mr. Joe Rogan. (Yes, the Fear Factor guy).
I’ve been aware of DMT for some time but was never interested in it enough to read about people’s experiences. Besides, I’ve always been the kind of drug user who likes to go into the experience with no preconceptions of its effects.
Other than doing research to ensure it wouldn’t kill me or make me [more] insane, Mr. Rogan’s experience was the only one I heard prior to mine. Upon listening to the above YouTube video, I made the decision that if I ever had the opportunity to do DMT – in a safe, friendly environment of course – I would jump at the chance.
Part Two: Anticipation
That chance presented itself about a month ago. Two of my close friends joined me. We decided to do it one after another as the effects, while extremely intense, only last about 15-20 minutes. I went third.
The friend who provided the DMT, whom I’ll refer to as Alec, said he was giving us each a heavy dose. Unaware of what constituted a normal dose, I didn’t think much when I saw he was weighing them out to ‘0.05’ grams. I figured that by “heavy dose” he meant a few extra milligrams. In fact, each hit was about twice the amount users typically smoke to reach DMT’s full effects.
DMT synthesized for recreational use typically (or perhaps exclusively for all I know) comes in one of two forms: white crystalline powder or a fine yellowish-white powder. I don’t know anything about how either is synthesized or even if one is more effective. All I know is Alec had both forms and mixed them together before divvying it all up three ways.
Alec was the only one of us who had experience with a DMT trip. My other friend, Jay, and I stared as he set fire to his hit – a futile attempt to assess its effects by merely studying his reaction. After taking the hit, he sat back, closed his eyes and remained silent and relatively motionless for about fifteen minutes.
Upon coming down, his only response to our hasty inquiries was, “I partied with the gods.”
“Whatever the fuck that means,” I thought to myself, impetuous to the anticipation.
Jay went next and had a similar outward physical reaction. He seemed to enjoy it.
Uninterested in his vague recount of the experience, I hurried Alec to ready my hit.
I must once again pause and preface the experience that followed with three bits of relevant information (I promise there’s a method to my madness).
1. I’m not a heavy drug user.
I smoke an exorbitant amount of marijuana on a daily basis, yes; but the proverbial ‘gateway’ to the ‘heavy shit’ has always been narrow. Other than pot, I’ve done psilocybin mushrooms twice, LSD four times, and salvia divinorum three times. I wasn’t foreign to hallucinogens prior to this experience.
However, none of them has really made me hallucinate. I’m a very rational person and tend to have a natural resistance to that aspect of hallucinogens. While I’ve had my visual world altered by them, I’d hardly call them hallucinations. They’re more like visual distortions, akin to that which can be applied to images in Photoshop. And I’ve always had control over them (e.g. “No, James, that salt-shaker isn’t really melting. You’re on acid, remember?”)
2. While I was brought up Christian, I’ve been an atheist since eleven or twelve years of age.
I saw something on Discovery Channel about cults one night. The concept of cults scared me. I woke up the next day and went to church.
I looked around at the adults, fixated upon the man at the fore of the pews, repeating his words on cue with stout monotony. I was stricken with the realization that my family belonged to a cult. I’ve been an atheist ever since.
3. The following recount of my experience with DMT is going to sound like some crazy, far-out shit. It is.
But I promise you, none of it is exaggerated. It is exactly what I remember seeing. No more, no less.
Part Three: The DMT Experience
The bowl packed, I pulled the hit (we used a gravity bong), repressed the urge to cough, and inhaled every bit. I held it in my lungs for about four or five seconds before slowly breathing it out.
Before I was even done exhaling, my world began to morph as I experienced an intense rushing sensation. The closest thing I can relate this to is one of those launch roller-coasters that begins with an extreme boost of speed (rather than getting pulled up a long incline).
It was hard to maintain awareness of my presence; as though my body became just another object in the room, disconnected from my soul or ego. It was weird, but I couldn’t spend much time dwelling on this feeling as the trip rapidly progressed. There was too much other stuff going on. This was about 5-10 seconds into the trip.
In an instant, every single visually-separable item in the room had not only its own energy but its own personality to go with it. All the objects in my field of vision darted around, each distorting themselves in their own unique manner.
Peering about, I realized that my friend’s apartment, the walls of which were laden with those trippy posters only stoners and college freshmen buy, was a horrible place to do this drug. I looked at the monkey poster on the wall in front of me, dumbfounded by the vividness with which every detail became animated.
For authentic reenactment, smoke DMT now.
The top monkey holding the tap as brew gushed into the beer-bong, bopping his head in sync with the vibrations of his headphones, foam dripping everywhere. The middle monkey holding the beer bong with his left hand, spinning his right in a rhythmic manner, smiling in such a way that suggested his awareness of my disbelief. The bottom monkey taking the endless beer bong like a champ, the pupils of his bloodshot eyes spinning in opposite directions, the stars rotating around his head just like a cartoon.
Like I mentioned above, I had a simple method for overcoming hallucinations while on acid; I would just focus harder on it and remind myself I’m on acid, and the hallucination would return to its true form. That didn’t work here. No matter how hard I tried focusing on these hallucinations, on the fact they couldn’t be real, they didn’t stop. I just noticed more about them. What’s more, they seemed to scoff at my attempts to deny them as anything other than real.
This aspect of the trip was akin to the moving paintings that are all around Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Not only did the posters become completely animated, but the ones with human, or human-like, subjects objectively acknowledged my presence. It was fucking surreal, but nothing compared to what came next.
The imagery became dizzying. Even the objects I wasn’t focused on darted around my peripheral vision with the same level of vividness as the monkeys.
In anything woven, such as my jeans, the individual strains of fabric appeared to flow in and out of each other, as though my eyes became able to witness the elastic energy with which such fabrics keep their form.
As the trip progressed, I became disturbed by separate hallucinations; vibrant, colourful, animated imagery formed separately from that which actually surrounded me. In other words, there were both hallucinations being formed from what I could really see, and hallucinations being formed from… well, nowhere.
Deciphering what was real and not became impossible and made me uneasy. Regret toward having surrendered such control set in.
Next thing I knew, the poster’s background engulfed the monkeys like a black hole, which immediately expanded into the entirety of my vision in a radial manner, forcing my eyes shut.
(I should note, by this point I was about 30 seconds into the trip. It reaches its peak effects between one and two minutes.)
The inside of my eyelids has always been a safe-haven during other psychedelic trips. Not this one.
Hexagonal patterns – seemingly formed from phosphenes (the illusion of light/colour you see when you close your eyes and rub them) – somehow formed within the confines of this familiar blackness. They flowed and pulsated with the flux of a river of molten lava. Describing them on paper is like describing the colour purple to a blind person. It was like looking at an assortment of neon lights through a kaleidoscope, but more vibrant and with less rigid movements. There was a certain coherence to the whole experience. It seemed logical.
Rapid flashes of imagery overtook my consciousness, as though my life was flashing before my eyes. Faces and places… but it was more than just images. Emotions came and went with their respective images with the same intense frequency.
While this was going on, I continued to feel as though I was being forced upward. I couldn’t help but feel the presence of someone – or something – else. Almost as though there was an intelligence to the patterns. Or something behind them.
It was all so foreign. What’s odd is my ego was still present – unimpaired. What I mean is, I didn’t feel intoxicated as I do while drunk. My reasoning ability was left untouched. I was still me, despite being thrust into what I could only rationally presume is the spirit world.
We’re approaching 45-50 seconds now.
The random flashes of imagery subsided to reveal a world taking shape. Depth was created in the blackness of my unopened eyes through the coordinated flow of vibrant, flashing, colorful hexagonal patterns; the floor discernible from the walls by differences in their patterns and direction of flow.
Aware that my eyes were closed, I was stupefied by the structural complexity of what I was witnessing in the darkness of my head.
Then, they revealed themselves.
I must once again pause to note that the following is not exaggerated. It is what I actually saw. I’m not filling the voids of my recollection with imaginative details. I went into this experience with the intent of paying close attention to whatever happened. I don’t need made-up details, there was far more than I could have even absorbed.
Part Four: The DMT Beings
Without warning, three glossy-black humanoid-like beings appeared.
Their movements had a certain graceful yet mischievous flow. They lacked any sort of skeletal structure; we were in a place where our laws of physics don’t exist. I didn’t see where they came from, it was as though they travelled from the depths of the patterns to get to me.
I had never seen nor conceived of such beings before (nor such a setting). But there they were. They were entirely made up of what can only be described as a black, viscous, malleable liquid. So vivid in every detail. So incredibly real. Impossibly real. Looking at me. Smiling.
Having seen a lot of random imagery thus far, I initially discarded them as just another fleeting hallucination. I opened my eyes, expecting to see some other random hallucinations upon closing them again. Instead, they – and the world I had just witnessed come to fore – remained.
In an instant, I forgot I put myself in this state. I was simply there, dealing with it. I didn’t have the capacity to consider maybe these were the “gods” Alec “partied with.” All that went out the window of thought.
My astonishment was inescapable. As was my fear. Their movements were mischievous but seemed choreographed. With their arrival came an unshakeable sense that I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. They laughed in a very specific manner. Not in an evil manner. More like the way a friend might laugh at you; as though they knew this was my first experience with DMT and found my reaction to it amusing. They made no noise, however. At no point did they speak. At the time this frustrated and frightened me further. I had no way to consider that perhaps verbal language wasn’t their mode of communication.
This is the part that was, without question, the most frightening experience of my life. I’m certain it’s the only time I experienced the emotion of terror. Pure terror.
I didn’t trust them. My first thought was that they were demons, which is why I was so scared. Had I found myself in their presence under different circumstances, I may have assumed they were aliens.
They seemed to transcend the other hallucinogenic aspects of the drug. Acknowledging them as objective entities was foreign to my belief system, and something I struggled against – without success. Denying them as real, intelligent, discarnate entities would have been as possible as denying the existence of the laptop with which I’m writing this. They were there. And they sure as hell knew a lot more about what was going on than I did.
Despite their odd makeup, I couldn’t shake a feeling of familiarity. Only in their faces and hands, and in some ways, their movements. The rest of them was alien. This only worked to scare me more, as my ego darted through the implications of this familiarity. I sensed that they were absorbing my thoughts and experiences. Like they knew me better than anyone from the real world ever could.
I felt they were laughing at my imaginative attempts to figure out what or who they are. They don’t make sense in the context of our reality. Even before they appeared, I feared I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. Out loud, I sought answers. “Umm, ahh. What the fucking…? Who…? are… is…? What are you guys? No… fucking… way… is this happening.”
They approached, dancing along the way. Tribal. Ritualistic. Those were the first two adjectives that popped in my head upon witnessing their movements.
Everything about them was so fundamentally different from the other effects of the drug. The hexagonal patterns were just that; patterns. They were predictable. There was no trouble acknowledging they were just crazy, trippy patterns I was seeing as a result of doing DMT; I expected to see some shit like that. These beings, however, were just so real. It didn’t feel like the DMT was making me see them, but rather it was allowing them to show themselves to me. To bring me to their realm.
They came up to my face and started to pull at me – much in the same way a child does when they want you to come to play. Masters of non-verbal communication, I knew this was what they wanted before they started being so explicit about it. I tensed up, trying to deny them my acknowledgement of their existence.
I could open my eyes, but when I did I still saw them. It was like when you look at an image on a computer screen before shutting your eyes and seeing the imprint it leaves, only the other way around. When I opened my eyes, their figures remained imprinted in my opened-eye vision.
Disturbed by my inability to escape them, I freaked out.
“Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God!” I exclaimed. Curious, considering my agnostic nature. Every muscle in my body tensed up, resisting them.
I could hear a voice. A real one. It was Alec.
“James, it’s okay. Let them take you. They’re cool.”
He knew what I was experiencing.
Instantly every muscle in my body relaxed as I let go of the physical strain with which I resisted them. When I closed my eyes again, they were directly upon me. At my feet. In my face. They looked as though their bodies were entirely made up of a thick, amorphous blob of metallic liquid, which they could manipulate in any manner they pleased. This is an ancient pop-culture reference, but if you remember that Nickelodeon show from the 90’s called The Secret World of Alex Mac, it was like a thicker, black version of the liquid Alex Mac would turn into.
The extraordinary nature of this closed-eye hallucination was such that if my eyes peered left, I saw whatever was to my left (within the context of the closed-eye hallucination). If I wanted to see what was to the right of me, I would peer to the right. Everything about it came across as an objective world that exists regardless of my presence, as opposed to a hallucination that exists solely within my subjective perception.
Upon releasing all physical strain, I somehow managed to dispose of my fear. Not out of bravery, but curiosity. “Whatever these beings are, they’re not going away,” I thought, “But… What the hell are they?” I focused harder on them.
No longer intoxicated by fear, I could more clearly process what was going on. I was astonished to find that they were taking me, or my soul, into the light. Yes, the light. The one dying people talk of. Only it wasn’t actually a light, more like a portal, but somehow I knew what it was.
I remember feeling that I should be scared, that maybe they’re gonna leave me up there. Or that perhaps the DMT had triggered some sort of seizure, and I was actually dying. However, evaluating my surroundings in the most rational manner possible seemed like a better option than freaking out again. I figured if I was indeed dying, this would be my only chance to witness death. I focused on breathing, reminding myself that the familiar sensation created by it indicates my well-being.
Once we arrived, their hands were feeling my face and my body. I focused most of my attention on the one in the middle, although by this point it appeared as though their bodies had moulded into one. She looked eerily similar to the Greek goddess Medusa. Only upon closer inspection, her hair was comprised of tentacles (that she could control) rather than snakes. In addition to her hair, she had what appeared to be retractable tentacles protruding from the sides of her torso, which joined the hands in their physical inspection of me. The scariest part was I could feel them. I could feel them caressing my face and body. Each and every touch.
This turned into a very intimate dance; somewhat tribal. By this point, I was just focusing on remembering what was going on.
I should say, for the record, I do not have any kind of weird tentacle fetish or fear of tentacles. Never have I had a traumatic run-in with an octopus or squid. There’s no event in my life that I can think of that would have caused me to see beings with retractable tentacles. They just had them. I remember at one point during the trip thinking to myself, “Tentacles? Really? Why fucking tentacles?”
After going through the light they tried communicating something to me. In retrospect, I realized they were trying to calm me down; basically trying to say “don’t give into astonishment.” As though there was something they wanted to show me, but I had to calm down before seeing it. I couldn’t help it though; I was simply astonished.
Upon realizing I had indeed given into my astonishment, it was almost as though they went, “Oh well, might as well dance then.” This made me feel awkward. I’m not the dancing type. But it was a familiar awkwardness. It felt just like when someone tries to make you get up and start dancing at a wedding when you don’t want to.
I got the overwhelming sense that they cared for me dearly. Although I had no way of knowing why. It was weird.
During this time, I recall seeing another being. It was a masculine figure, more human-like than the other three, who stood in the right-hand corner. His arms folded, he seemed to be overseeing everything. I never interacted with him. I wasn’t as worried about him, as he wasn’t all up in my face.
The most surreal, and easiest to recollect, part of the whole experience was coming down.
Coming down from a drug has never felt so literal. Rather than merely feeling the drug wear off, the beings literally brought me back down, waving their arms and tentacles mystically as they placed my soul back into my body (it was almost like they were being sarcastic about it). That’s exactly what it felt like, having my soul returned to my body; there’s simply no other way to describe it. After which, they just walked off nonchalantly. All of a sudden I was back in my body.
The visual distortions remained for about another five minutes as I grappled with what had just happened. I demanded answers from Alec, “What the FUCK were those things?”
“The gods, man,” he replied.
Part Five: The Trans-Existent Realm
As we talked about our experiences, we found striking similarities in what we saw. Three black humanoid figures seemingly made up of a viscous liquid. This was amazing to me, as it would support the hypothesis that DMT allows the user to access another plane of existence.
Being a devout rationalist, I discarded this as a possibility. Until the conversation continued. And Jay spoke the following words which shattered my grip on rationality.
“Did ya’ll notice a more human-looking figure, like, in the corner of the place they took you?”
My jaw dropped. No. Fucking. Possible. Way. I no longer knew what to think. I still don’t.
Alec remembered seeing such a figure, and if you read my above account, you know I did too. How did we just happen to have such similar experiences?
Afterwards, I scoured the internet for literature on DMT. I needed answers. What the fuck were those beings I saw? Spirits? Demons? Angels?
It made me realize none of us even know what any of these things look like. If us three had the same trip – with the same beings – independent of each other, surely someone else has. And if that’s the case, they surely must have written about it. It’s quite lonely a feeling, actually; seeing something every fiber of your being knows was real, yet knowing it would sound insane to the rest of the world.
There’s not much literature online about DMT, at least compared to other drugs. Plus, I was really only concerned with finding that which dealt with the actual beings that I saw. I read through a lot of other people’s experiences, and the majority of them came across as somewhat similar to what my friends and I experienced; as though the subjects merely described the experience differently. After searching for a while, I only found two or three recounted experiences that described the beings I saw. The implications of this have left me dumbfounded.
Which is why I had to write this. I couldn’t have just experienced what I did on DMT and then go about my daily life as if nothing happened. Especially considering there is so little written of encounters with these DMT beings. My hope is this article will help those who encountered them recollect their experience better. I guess all I can do now is wait.
Moral of the story: do DMT. And then come back here and tell me what you saw. Also, if you enjoyed this read, please share this with as many people as you can!