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Journal of the Society for Psychical Research

[Vol. 75.1, No. 902

DISCARNATE ENTITIES AND DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT): PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, PHENOMENOLOGY AND ONTOLOGY
by DAVID LUKE

ABSTRACT
The highly psychoactive molecule A^.iV-dimethyltryptamine (or simply DMT), is found naturally occurring in the brains of humans, mammals, and some other animals, as well as in a broad range of species of the plant kingdom. Although speculative, neurochemical research suggests that DMT may be made in the pineal gland, and it is hypothesised that, as much as melatonin helps activate sleep cycles, DMT activates- dreaming, and may also be implicated in other natural visionary states such as mystical experience, near-death experience (NDE), spontaneous psi and psychosis. Amazonian shamans may have made use of this chemical for its visionary properties for thousands of years, and take it as part of a decoction frequently called ayahuasca, which translates from Quechua as "vine of the spirits" or "vine of the dead". The psychedelic brew is taken because it gives rise to extraordinary mental phenomena that have shamanic and supposed healing qualities, such as synaesthesia, ostensible extra-dimensional percepts, out-of-body experiences, psi experiences and, perhaps most commonly, encounters with discarnate entities. When described by independent and seemingly naïve DMT participants the entities encountered tend to vary in detail hut often helong to one of a very few similar types, with similar behavioural characteristics. For instance, mischievous shapeshifting elves, praying mantis alien brain surgeons and jewel-encrusted reptilian beings, who all seem to appear with baffling predictability. This opens up a wealth of questions as to the ontology of these entities. The discussion of the phenomenology and ontology of these entities mixes research from parapsychology, ethnobotany amd psychopharmacology — the fruits of science — with the foamy custard of folklore, anthropology, mythology, cultural studies and related disciplines. Hopefully, however, given the varied readership of this journal, it won't prove to be a trifie too interdisciplinary. INTRODUCTION

Rarely does any one molecule excite as much sense of intellectual possibility as that of N.A^-dimethyl tryptamine (styled N,N-'DMT, or simply DMT): a psychedelic Índole alkaloid of the tryptamine family, much like its more notorious cousin LSD, but one which is found to occur naturally in trace quantities in the human body, as well as in many plants and animals, and— unlike LSD—also has a long history of shamanic use among many indigenous cultures, particularly in South America. When administered by Amazonian shamans it is usually ingested orally from stewed plant-matter and gives rise to an intoxication that lasts for 4-6 hours (Shanon, 2002). When smoked, DMT is generally more intense and extremely fast-acting—taking only a matter of seconds—and makes extremely profound temporary changes to consciousness, lasting about 12-15 minutes (Strassman, 2001), Zen philosopher Alan Watts smoked DMT to demonstrate his ability as a monk to maintain rational control and verbal fluency in the most exotic states of consciousness, but failed and
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and encounters with discarnate entities. 2001). who synthesised DMT in his lab and injected it into himself in 1956. . The common neurotransmitter serotonin (5 hydroxy tryptamine. DMT was isolated from a plant source {Mimosa hostilis) in 1946 by the Brazilian chemist and ethnobotanist Gonçlaves de Lima (Shulgin & Shulgin. p. someone recently suggested to me that smoking DMT was "like God punching a hole in the back of your head". brilliantly coloured oriental motifs" that completely filled his consciousness (Szára.. although Hanna (2010) reminds us that the pineal-DMT hypothesis remains unproven despite the tendency of many. clearly establishing DMT as an endogenous chemical (i. 2001). 84). made within the body). "in front of me are two quiet. 2001). Prasad.g.e. Similarly. for certain. 1966. 1977). synaesthesia. . however. One hypothesis holds that DMT manufacture occurs at the pineal gland (e. psi (particularly telepathy and clairvoyance). Its identity as an endogenous 'psychedelic' was discovered by the Hungarian chemist and psychiatrist Stephen Szára. afterwards describing his "hallucinations". but it remains unknown where. 1991) and NDEs (Strassman. and in 1972 the Nobel-prize-winner Julius Axelrod reported finding DMT in human brain tissue (Strassman. Strassman. or 5HT). Szára went on to give DMT to his medical colleagues. is known to be highly concentrated in 27 . "the whole room is filled with spirits .g. out-of-body experiences. crucial in higher cognitive processes. Roney-Dougal. Currently. this biosynthesis occurs. 1957. the tryptophan being available from the diet as an essential amino acid. sunlit Gods". phenomenology and ontology of such DMT encounters. The extraordinary phenomena reported by users include extra-dimensional geometric visions. cited in Strassman. Lopez-Ramos & Walker. HISTORY OF DMT BIOCHEMISTRY First synthesised in the laboratory in 1931 by the Canadian chemist Jeremy Manske. less informed. so the current paper is overdue in presenting an — albeit brief—overview of the psychopharmacology. 1997). 2001). while another noted that.January 2011] Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine commented afterwards that it was like attempting to give "a moment-tomoment description of one's reactions while being fired out the muzzle of an atomic cannon with neon-byzantine barrelling" (Leary. one of whom reported that. which "consisted of moving. The parapsychological and transpersonal experiences reported by users are increasingly becoming the focus of research and DMT neurochemistry has been called on in the explanation of phenomena such as psi (e. there exists no published review of DMT in relation to encounters with ostensibly discarnate entities. psychedelic commentators to assume it to be true. AND THE PINEAL GLAND ITS RELATED COMPOUNDS The production of DMT in the body is speculated to occur through the conversion of the simpler molecule tryptophan into tryptamine and then into DMT (Mandel. Such biosynthesis has been observed in plants and is speculated to occur in humans (Mandel et al. 1977) given that all the necessary chemical building blocks and enzymes are available. In 1965 a German team published an article in Nature announcing the discovery of DMT in human blood. THE SPECULATED PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY OF DMT. I feel exactly as if I were flying".

however. These latter two substances are also endogenous visionary molecules. liver. 2002). which breaks down tryptamines such as serotonin.hydroxy-N. Another function of these MAO inhibitors (MAOIs). Any tryptamine at the pineal. the pineal gland is especially rich in them and also has high concentrations of serotonin. ayahuasea. with the aid of pineal enzymes (methyl transferases. one of which contains harmala alkaloids (such as the ayahuasea vine. it ean be easily converted into tryptamine.g. Shanon.l. blood and eye all contain the enzymes necessary to convert tryptamine to DMT. such as S-adrenosyl-methionine. 2001). The ancient use of the 28 . thought to occur primarily through the reduetion of body temperature (Dawson & Encel. 1988). 902 the pineal gland. Psychotria viridis) (e. or 5MT) and the /?-earboline. No DMT was detected in the glands. Used widely by the indigenous groups of the Amazon basin and across much of South America.iV-dimethyl tryptamine (5-MeO-DMT). where it follows a circadian rhythm and is converted at night into melatonin (5-methoxy tryptamine. 5-HO-DMT) (Shulgin & Shulgin. according to Strassman (2001). the serotonin available at the pineal gland can also be eonverted into 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin (5. Roney-Dougal (e. a harmala alkaloid. or SAM).g. such as the venomous secretions of the Sonoran desert toad (Bufo alvarius). 2000). especially when it is considered that the chemical conversion of tryptamine to DMT can be demonstrated in vitro. The human pineal gland also creates other y3-earbolines. No. where. can be eonverted to DMT. DMT.N-dimethyltyptamine. So while the pineal-DMT hypothesis is currently unproven (Hanna. 75. 2007). 1991) also points to the use of ayahuasca as a sacramental shamanie brew reported to induce a range of psychic experiences. pinoline (6-methoxy tetrahydro-/5-earboline. According to Strassman (2001). Some of these visionary substances are even of animal origin. Banisteriopsis caapi) — and the other of whieh contains DMT (such as the chacruna bush. 2010) it is certainly feasible. is to make serotonin available at the pineal (Ho. Sueh an abundance of DMT in nature has led Shulgin and Shulgin (1997) to conclude that it is almost easier to list the species in which DMT does not occur than the ones in which it does. which are rich in bufotenin that can be dried and smoked (Rudgley. sueh as pinoline or any of the harmala alkaloids. similar in chemical strueture and effect to DMT and are also found in certain ingredients of the visionary shamanie deeoetion used in the Americas. ayahuasca. and its close psychedelic cousin 5-methoxy A^. is usually a combination of at least two plants. whieh means "the vine of the spirits" in Queehua. and. and in other shamanie substances.Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. such as 6-methoxyharmalan. the former of whieh regulates sleep cycles. ready to convert to tryptamine. 1977). THE AYAHUASCA CAULDRON AS NOCTURNAL PINEAL MIMICRY Supporting the hypothesis that the supposed psyehedelie chemistry of the pineal gland is central to the expression of psi. neither the bodies nor the glands were freshly frozen and any chemicals present may have degraded before analysis (Strassman. or 6-MeO-TH/îC) (Callaway. 1997). by the same methylisation process. although the lungs. The only attempt thus far to support the hypothesis directly has been Strassman's attempt to isolate DMT from 10 human pineal glands extracted from eadavers. according to Callaway (1988). These yff-earbolines inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxydase (MAO).

a recent review of 35 psychedelic compounds and their affinities for 51 different receptors. like other psychedelic tryptamines. LSD and psilocybin (for a review see Nichols. but the plant-based harmala alkaloids (ßcarbolines) also added to the brew inhibit MAO and allow the complementarily ingested visionary tryptamines to be absorbed intact. Roney-Dougal (e. ayahuasca contains two types of visionary chemicals.January 2011] Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine ayahuasca vine goes back to at least AD 500-1000 Andean Chile. Until recently DMT was considered to be similar in action to the classic serotonergic psychedelics. harmine) that helps to both potentiate the effects of. probably due to their hyperserotonergic aetion and the subsequent production of the endogenous vision-inducing molecules 5-MeO-DMT and 5HO-DMT (Callaway. DMT). However. 2008). 1988) or artificially by causing waking dream states. 1991) mystical experiences and NDEs (Strassman. However. as inducing psiconducive states.1991. Roney-Dougal. transporters and ion 29 . one type (ßearbolines. 1993). potentially mimicking the nocturnal chemistry of the pineal and its supposed control over natural visionary states sueh as dreams (Callaway. by acting primarily as a 5HT2A (serotonin subtype) agonist.g. Nevertheless the harmala alkaloids are also known to induce visions themselves. DMT. clairvoyant states induced with the harmala-alkaloid-containing Perganum harmala shrub in Morocco have been reported (Rudgley. NEUROCHEMICAL ACTION OF DMT In terms of the neurochemical action on the brain. There exist further expositions of the relationship between parapsychological phenomena. The former group of endogenous visionary tryptamines. It is this action of the ßearbolines (particularly harmine) in ayahuasca that is currently considered to be their primary purpose as plant admixtures in the brew (e. although a contemporary review in relation to electromagnetic field fluctuations is presently overdue (but see Roney-Dougal. 1988). and this may account for why harmala alkaloids are less effective and slower than DMT or DMT/harmala alkaloid combinations at inducing visions (Luke. Arriaza. either naturally during dreams (Callaway. such as the endogenous pinoline and the exogenous harmala alkaloids. & Soto. are not orally active if ingested as they are denatured by the MAO enzymes present in the stomach. 2006). 2001). In essence. 2000). as in ayahuasea. 1990. although commonly present in ayahuasca (especially DMT). 5MeO-DMT and 5H0DMT in synergy with the yö-earbolines. 1989. as subjectively potent ayahuasca decoctions occasionally do not contain DMT when analysed (Callaway.g. as confirmed by archaeological hair samples (Ogalde. is only very partially understood. and create the other type (tryptamines. 2008c). Roney-Dougal (2001) also later acknowledged that the yff-carbolines may primarily exert their visionary effects by potentiating the effects of ingested visionary tryptamines like DMT or 5MeO-DMT when consumed in combination with them.g. in preparation). travelling clairvoyance (e. though this may not always be the case. 2010) and parapsyehological research (Luke. e.g. 2005). Based on their known psychoactivity. 2004). psyehedelics and the pineal gland in terms of neurochemistry (Luke & Friedman. Indeed.g. 2004). The brew has a unique and eomplex chemistry that is speculated to mimic that of the nocturnal pineal gland and its psychedelic deployment of DMT. e. Roney-Dougal & Vögl. McKenna. 2001) originally implicated /ff-carbolines.

and administered over 400 intravenous doses to more than 60 volunteers throughout the 1990s as part of a clinical investigation into its effects. Following injection. and also include vomiting due to the purgative effects of the harmala alkaloids (e. and so scientific research ceased. p-tyramine and tryptamine) receptors (not reviewed by Ray. Medical doctor Rick Strassman has been one of the few researchers to work directly with DMT in humans since then. and by 12-15 minutes had subsided to the point were the participant was able to speak again. possibly leading to some psychological effects. despite demonstrating little potential for abuse. 2010) rather than the serotonergic receptors. having the greatest affinity with 5HT7. are subjectively experienced far less than the intense immersive shift in consciousness of the DMT itself. peaked at about 2 minutes. the effects began in seconds. but see Nichols (2004) and Wallach (2009) for a limited overview. vasopressin. as previously thought (e.. 2004). and was still climbing at 60 minutes (Strassman. Pupils dilated and body temperature rose after a delay of 15 minutes. Trying to unpack the neurocognitive implications of this pharmacologically limited database and yet extremely complex assortment of neurochemical activities is no simple job and is still very much a nascent endeavour. These physiological changes. see McKenna. No. 902 channels shows many psychedelic substances to be particularly 'promiscuous' and share affinities for many receptor types and sub-types (Ray. The physiological changes accompanying the use of ayahuasca are similar but less immediate and more prolonged. interestingly enough. Melatonin concentrations in the blood. prolactin. 75. fell. however. growth hormone and corticotrophin. By the early 1970s. 2009). 2004). 2010).1. 5HTID and 5HTIE out of any of the 35 chemicals tested. some alpha adrenergic receptor subtypes. The 30 . Wallach (2009) speculates that DMT's extraordinary visionary phenomena are actually mediated by its recently discovered action upon the 'mysterious' trace amine (e. Sharp but not prolonged increases in blood levels were also observed for beta-endorphin.g.g. The individual neuroanatomy and neurobiology of these implicated receptor systems is altogether another discussion. PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE DMT EXPERIENCE Since the informal DMT administration studies conducted by Szára from the 1950s. 5HTiA. few scientific inroads have been made into the DMT experience.Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. suggests that understanding the biological function of DMT is as elusive now as it has ever been. but both fell as quickly as they rose once the peak of the trip had been reached at about 2 minutes. for one. Nichols. Ray demonstrates DMT to be especially promiscuous. It could be said that DMT is far from selective in its action and is a potent and broad-acting neuromodulator. Wallach (2009). 2010). 2001).g. DMT had become a scheduled drug in the severest category. and also having affinity with a range of serotonin subtypes. DMT is also unique in having the greatest affinity for any single dopamine (Di) receptor of any psychedelic compound tested in this review (Ray. Physiological changes generally involved a rapid increase in pulse (up to 150bpm) and blood pressure. Furthermore. and the sigma-1 receptor—implicated in clinical depression and schizophrenia — for which DMT is the only known endogenous ligand (Fontanilla et al.

2006. revelation and a sense of timelessness (Strassman. geometric forms. Given that such sounds and vibrations are common to out-of-body experiences (e. and deep hypnosis (Cárdena. The other common experience in Strassman's research was to encounter entities. or rather mental.g. that it had dissolved and they had become pure awareness (Strassman. 63 percent of first-time ayahuasca users reported seeing extraordinary visual phenomena. Luna. 2001. with experients feeling they no longer had a body. At higher doses nearly all of Strassman's DMT participants beheld mental imagery. imagery was the predominant experiential effect for DMT participants. imagery usually took the form of kaleidoscopic geometric patterns. 2010b for a discussion of entoptics and geometric DMT imagery). auditory driving and hyperventilation (for a review see Lewis-Williams & Dowson. humans. Metzner. 2001. which have been referred to as entoptics (perhaps erroneously) or form constants (e. Under the influence of DMT the colours of this geometry tend to exceed what are usually perceived with the eyes. euphoria. Intense physical vibrations were commonly experienced. and saw much the same with their eyes open or shut. though on occasion the negative emotion became almost unbearably bad. 146). including kaleidoscopic lights. and were consistently categorised as "four-dimensional" or "beyond dimensionality" at high doses (Stassman. sensory deprivation. and were "brighter. 31 . 2001). Initially. p. Other feelings experienced include elation. which generally passed after a few seconds of deep breathing. Shanon. 2008. 148). p. in one study. In a survey of psychedelic transpersonal experiences (Luke & Kittenis. animals. though not objectively observed. excitement. Lewis-Williams & Dowson.January 2011] Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine experience begins with an immediate 'rush'. see Beyer. as well as hypnogogia (Mavromatis. p. Giglio & Dalgalarrondo. except that with eyes open the vision overlaid the contents of the room so volunteers generally closed their eyes for less disorientation. 1987).g. are experienced as a consequence of factors such as ingestion of certain psychoactive drugs. Irwin. which maybe called form constants. often accompanied by high-pitched whining and whirring or chattering sounds as the effects begin (Strassman. 2001). The dimensions of the geometric patterns often surpass normal percepts too. two of the three most common reports for DMT were being out of one's body but in another dimension and dissolving into pure energy. often. Klüver. and deeper than those of normal awareness or dreams" (Stassman. Such an intense and swift onset was often accompanied with some fear and anxiety. 147). MENTAL IMAGERY Visual. and supernatural beings (Barbosa. felt as a sense of urgency and departure. 2005). 2001. colourful geometric patterns. and. 2009). tunnels. Certainly. 1988).g. Indeed. usually as a sense of "powerful energy pulsing through them at a very rapid and high frequency" (Strassman. 2005). 2002). and also closely resembled those of ayahuasca users (e. 1926. 1988) because they are considered to be universally experienced in altered states and supposedly conform to a few specific types of patterning (see Luke. 1985) it is perhaps not unsui:'prising that dissociation from the body was frequently reported. more intense. personal communication. 2009.

2001). 2002). 2004). who received the Nobel Prize for inventing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—making possible the human genome project and forensic DNA testing—had earlier said that taking LSD had been invaluable in helping him visualise sitting on a DNA molecule and watching the polymerase go by (Mullis. often becoming incorporated into the aforementioned geometry in a somewhat ineffable manner. with similar reports occurring for ayahuasca (Luna. in auspicious circumstances. Kary Mullis. . and. DNA double helices (Strassman. Clearly LSD is not the same as DMT. The DMT imagery also appears as iconic forms. leading this author to question the supposed physiological origin of such visions (Luke. said she saw a chromosome from the perspective of a protein flying above a long strand of DNA" (Narby. and to look anywhere was to be shot clean through with scintillating amazement. [Sfos. but often 'represented' by two intertwined snakes. The anthropologist Narby (1998) also found DNA was a frequent feature in the ayahuasca visions of Amazonian shamans. exfoliating out of themselves what might be called hyperspherologies of the divine. who normally worked on deciphering the human genome. the first psychoactive compound isolated from ayahuasca. No. 75. and impossible Gordian knots dancing the jitterbug at a lyrical lightspeed: a gelatinous ballet of endlessly self-juxtaposing pirouettes. All three scientists received valuable information from their visions that helped inform their research. 2001). the inner workings of fantastic machines. "the American biologist. 32 . albeit inconclusive. as best described by this DMT experient:At this point the glorious geometries transcended what is even vaguely feasible in this three-dimensional mundane [reality]. incredible landscapes and cities of alien worlds (Shanon. was discovered by Zerda Báyon (1912) it was named telepathine. commonly. both substances seem capable of inducing microscopic molecular visions. DMT A D VERIDICAL VISIONS N When the harmala alkaloid now called harmine. Whether such feats are due to the imagination or clairvoyance remains unclear. 1998). after ingesting ayahuasca. constantly concrescing [sic] into new and varigated [sic] permutations. 302). For instance. 2008). 2010b): the optic system seemingly belonging to only three dimensions. computers. but support for the latter is abundant. Zerda Báyon illustrated the psi-inducing power of telepathine with the case of Colonel Morales. 2000] Iconic images seen may take the form of tunnels. symbols and scripts. the biochemist. Narby (2000) took three molecular biologists to Peru for their seminal trips up the Amazon and on ayahuasca. Prior to the Crick news report. You have a sense of being swarmed by the whimsical mastermind art forms of an extremely eccentric Boolean contortionist. who. for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize (Rees. . p.Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. and which ultimately changed their worldview. particularly of DNA. ducts (Strassman. internal organs and bodies. A possibly apocryphal and certainly controversial story told shortly after Francis Crick's death suggests that the geneticist was under the influence of LSD when he envisioned the double helix structure of DNA in 1953. stairways.1. 2000. a diabolical merry go round of linguistic Rubik's cubes. Similarly. 902 6th October 2008). but as a psychedelic tryptamine it has some similar neurochemical properties and. 13th dimensional millipedes saying themselves to themselves as they make love.

although these were more conspicuous with certain other psyehedelics (Luke & Kittenis. and both studies lacked control eonditions to eompare against (for a review see Luke. in this ease ayahuasea (Don. system for the stages of the ayahuasca experience. 2010. geometric visual patterns. Nevertheless. In one study the participant complained that experiencing the visions was far more interesting than testing for psi. both failed to elicit it. the only two published experiments to attempt to test for psi under the infiuence of DMT. Level II: Vivid. possible contact with entities. It seems unlikely that the news eould have arrived first by non-paranormal means. Level III: Three. probably the first researcher to write specifically about DMT entities. 1996.January 2011] Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine beheld a vision of his dead father and his sick sister. Designs with figures 5. p. Geometric designs and patterns 4. characterized the deepening levels of the experience (somewhat like LewisWilliams and Dowson's (1988) stages of altered states of consciousness) as:Level I: Threshold experience. Indeed. Many more published accounts of sueh apparent ESP occur in Luna and White's (2000) anthology of classic ayahuasca experiences. 2005). Transitional phase: Tunnel or breakthrough experience. geometries are basically two-dimensional but may pulse. 2008c). brilliantly coloured. as well as elsewhere (for summaries see Luke & Friedman. The cognitive psychologist Shanon (2002.or higher-dimensional space. Repetitive. 2002). Meyer (1994). 293) has a similar. framed around the predominant visual or visionary phenomena:1. Kaleidoscopic images 33 . an interiorflowingof energy/consciousness. About one month later he received the same news by messenger. PHENOMENOLGICAL CARTOGRAPHY OF THE DMT WORLD Considering the phenomenology of the DMT experience several researchers have attempted to map the psychic topography of the DMT space. 2010a). Shanon. Survey respondents also reported DMT and ayahuasea as inducers of spontaneous psi-type experiences. passage through an entrance into another world. though this may well be due to the arduous and boring testing deployed. multiplying non-figurative elements 3. beholding visions of distant dead or dying relatives—who were not known at the time to be ill or dead—is an ayahuasca story that has emerged repeatedly in the writings of South American explorers during the last 150 years (for a brief review see Luke. McDonough. albeit more refined. Bursts. as the group was deep in the jungle 15 days' travel from the nearest communications outpost. Rapid figurai transformations 6. 1994). Level IV: The white light. Warren & Moura. Tinoco. a sense of being in an 'objective' space and of meeting intelligent and communicating entities. puffs and splashes of colour 2.

second is the 'contact with the spirit world' phase—incorporating entity encounters and corresponding to Meyer's Level III and Shanon's 9th13th stages. angels. 2008). Encounters with serpents and large felines. 75. into three types:— Personal: Encounters with one's own personal issues. Invisible worlds: Encounter with autonomous. the latter four of which were commonly supremely powerful. prefers to characterise the experience into just three chronological stages. 2002). though it should be noted that not all experiences 'go all the way'. Besides visionary encounters with people. the first two of whieh map closely to those of Shanon and Meyer: first is the geometric pattern phase. fading visions and decreased intensity. stable. 'beings'. Full-fledged scenes 10. No. Proto-scenes 9. Over half of the volunteers taking a high dose of DMT had at least one 'invisible world' experienee (Strassman. particularly black pumas. pass through fully immersive other worlds and terminate in experiences of euphoric light. May be a mystical or near-death-type experience. 902 7. Alternatively. 'aliens'. 2008). Transpersonal: An experience novel in intensity and quality but formed from the subject's previous experience. Ayahuasca cartographer Beyer (2009). and the third and final stage is a recovery phase. 'guides' or 'helpers'. 185). Virtual reality 14. common and unique features of the DMT or ayahuasca experience is the encounter with seemingly sentient discarnate beings. In traditional ayahuasca mythology the serpent is considered to be the spirit of ayahuasea and the feline is considered to be the power animal of the shaman. Supreme light Like Meyer's four DMT stages. imps. and stick figures" (Strassman. gods. Celestial and heavenly scenes 13. wise. Strassman (2008) takes a categorical rather than a stage approaeh to elassifying the different DMT experiences. 2001. Well-defined. DISCARNATE ENTITIES Perhaps one of the most striking. often difficult to accept. Scenes of flight 12. as well as dwarfs.Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. bees. demonstrating that pure DMT can reliably induce an entity encounter experience in a good proportion of volunteers. and loving. freestanding realities sometimes appearing to be inhabited by alien beings capable of interaction. mantises. are much more typical on ayahuasca (Shanon. Interactive scenes 11. p. and would appear as something like "clowns. or just as a presence. spiders. lassitude.1. reptiles. spirits. animals and other 34 . of pleasantness. and on occasion the ayahuasca drinkers feel themselves transformed into this creature. elves. eacti. whieh are often described as being more real than anything previously experienced (Cott & Rock. Commonly they were described as 'entities'. single figurative images 8. Shanon's fourteen ayahuasea stages begin with colourful geometry.

Hancock (2005) argues that there are substantial similarities 35 . the entities tended to impart insightful information about themselves and the universe that they inhabited. because these are regularly encountered on ayahuasca according to interviews with shamans and surveys of users (see Luke. Mythological beings: Such as gnomes.g. 2008). or transforming or shapeshifting beings. 2001.g. HarveyWilson. Chimeras or hybrids: Typically half human half animal (e. 3. Reports abound of mantis-like creatures performing ethereal brain surgery to DMT (and indeed 4H0-DMT) experients. However. Following the use of ayahuasca. Another category. or cylinders of light. Ring. DMT and alien abduction experiences lack specific commonalities. Further. especially in the form of a praying mantis (Luke. to tiger. Indeed one close friend naively reported a mantis encounter on their first DMT trip and another naively experienced full-blown 'psychic brain surgery' from a mantis on their second ayahuasca session. A similar classification might also be applied to DMT entities.January 2011] Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine ordinary things (not typical of DMT). in press). Angels and celestial beings: Usually winged humanlike beings that may be transparent or composed of light. should be added to Shanon's list. Buddha. Extraterrestrials: These are particularly common for some experients and may be accompanied by spacecraft. of plant teachers or plant spirits. alien abduction experiences. 4. monsters and beings of death: Such as the angel of death. traditional psychedelic-induced shamanic initiations. 6. 1999. Baruss (2003) notes that. despite the similarities.g. 5. and monsters of all kinds. Egyptian or pre-Columbian deities. Demons. 1989). Strassman (2001) developed this further and suggested that spontaneous endogenous DMT fluctuations could be at the root of alien abduction experiences as they share the same newly found fearlessness of death and visions of energy tunnels. Of note. Severi (2003) also noted the similarity between NDEs. 1999). the kinds of supernatural beings encountered on ayahuasca are classified by Shanon (2002) thus:1. mermaids). Mack. 2008b). such as the absence with DMT of the classic 'grays' (alleged small grey aliens). 2. as have previous researchers (e. Semi-divine beings: May appear like Jesus. a common theme emerged of entering other realities and having what the user experienced as real encounters with sentient beings. In a qualitative analysis of interviews with 19 DMT users (Cott & Rock. and heightened psychic sensitivity. a sub-category to Shanon's list might be added to the extraterrestrial category. to wolf. in a manner reminiscent of alien abduction cases (e. Kottmeyer. or typically Hindu. for example from human to puma. 2008). Nevertheless. typically identified as being deceased persons (Cott & Rock. Psychedelic explorer McKenna (1991) posited that 4H0-DMT (psilocin) visions and other spontansous experiences of aliens and UFOs originated from the same source. fairies. much like the positive performative role played by the apparently sentient beings encountered in near-death experiences. that of insectoid-aliens. elves.

under the influence. 75. pixies. whether induced through DMT or else appearing in historic-folkloric legends and testimonies. are extremely prevalent. ONTOLOGY OF DMT BEINGS Encounters with elves. 1995). 1996). suggests "we are alienated. p. When we can love the alien. being stuffed full of light by what I can only describe as little elves.Psychological/ Transpersonal. Meyer (1996) indicates that. and have been popularly dubbed the "self-transforming machine elves" (McKenna. The entities are subjective hallucinations. Indeed on my first experience with DMT. according to Kent the entities cannot be trusted always to tell the truth and must be regarded as tricksters. speculating that the latter also have a DMT-induced aetiology and. The seeming reality of the experience at the time. 2001). 902 between aliens and 'elves'. 16). James Kent (see Pickover. and the similarity of such encounters with those of others. The communicating entities appear alien but are actually unfamiliar aspects of ourselves (Turner. Similar 'elven' characters once reappeared on an ayahuasca trip but disturbed me even more because this time they appeared in front of me.Hallucination. pp. unaware of virtually all lore associated with it. These little people. The identity of the entities remains speculative. I thereafter discovered a similar account reported by Meyer (1996) and so was struck by the coincidence. 2010) by considering the entities simply as information generators. eyes closed. I found myself. 43). Such a position is favoured by those taking a purely (materialist reductionist) neuropsychological approach to the phenomena." III . 2005. McKenna (1991. II . It should be noted that few experients ever doubt the reality of their encounters with either aliens (Mack. but they may be extraterrestrial or even extradimensional alien species. have long been at the spearhead of the debate on the reality of DMT beings. perhaps due to their prevalence. be they our reptilian brain or our cells. 104105). For Kent (2010). Alternatively. p. molecules or sub-atomic particles (Meyer. goblins and other 'little people' (though clearly not human people). the independent existence of these beings seems self-evident. DMT provides access to a true alternate dimension inhabited by independently existing intelligent entities. have led many to ponder seriously the ontology of these beings. so alienated that the self must disguise itself as an extraterrestrial in order not to alarm us with the truly bizarre dimensions that it encompasses. dwarfs.1.Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. that these elves are the prototype encounter/abduction experiences. One particularly vocal DMT explorer who adopted this neuro-reductionist approach. Leading the debate. Nevertheless. the question of the entities' reality is redundant given that they generate real information. with my eyes open. Meyer's and others' interpretations fall into three basic camps:I . gnomes. adopting the theory proposed by Vallée (1969).Other worlds. but suggests that there are numerous interpretations of the entity phenomena. 1991. then we will have begun to heal the psychic discontinuity that [plagues] us. 1999) or DMT entities (Strassman. appears to have taken a more ambiguous stance recently (Kent. interacting with me. imps. and sometimes this seems to go beyond the experient's available sphere of knowledge. No. spirits of the dead or time travellers from the future 36 .

Good evidence was presented that none other than a grandmaster of Maróczy's standing could have maintained that standard of playing over 47 moves. popularly termed hyperspace (e. One alternative approach to investigating the ontology of shamanic entity encounters considers similarities in independent reports concerning the 37 . 2002. it remains a possibility that any information provided by ostensibly discarnate entities may actually be due to the 'super' psi of the receiver (e. The most crippling problem for Rodriguez's test. The hyperspace explanation is one of the conclusions drawn by Evans-Wentz (1911/2004. because psi has no apparent or even theoretical limits. Grossly simplified. however. Regrettably. At this juncture. pixies.January 2011] Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine (Meyer. elves. is actually just a four-dimensional version of our physical reality (Meyer. 482) following his massive folkloric study of 'the little people' (i. which has long proved difficult to surmount in parapsychological attempts to validate the existence of discarnate entities considered to be spirits of the dead. Rodriguez (2007) suggests obtaining from the entities solutions to complex mathematics puzzles that are unknown to the DMT participant communicating with them.g. whereas the beings. uncertainty prevails. no amount of speculation will reveal the true nature of such DMT 'visions' nor their entities and the ontological debate remains wide open without a scientific approach. is the super psi hypothesis. Hence the ordinary apparition is non-real as a form. The problem is that. The living chess grandmaster Victor Korchnoi ostensibly played a high level game of chess with the deceased Hungarian grandmaster Géza Maróczy via an automatic-writing medium who was a chess novice (Eisenbeiss & Hassler. but failed to consider the possibility that Korchnoi himself was the (living) source of such psi information (Breederveld. A case in point comes from a proposal by computer scientist Rodriguez (2007) to experimentally prove or disprove the entities' existence. and a similar curse awaits any such attempts to test the reality of DMT entities through ordinary informational means. and so Neppe (2007) dismissed the superpsi hypothesis. which wholly sane and reliable seers claim to see when exercising seership of the highest kind [perhaps under the influence of endogenous DMT]. etc):It is mathematically possible to conceive fourth-dimensional beings. A variation on this is that the alternate dimension. chess matches or otherwise. Turner. can lend over a century's worth of similar such enquiry to the issue. 1996). parapsychology. the medium or DMT explorer) receiving the information directly from an earthly incarnate source (see Braude. Surely in such cases Occam's razor should prevail in support of the survival hypothesis. 2006). but alas. A parallel debate aptly demonstrates how the super psi problem applies to Rodriguez's (2007) proposal. and if they exist it would be impossible in a third-dimensional plane to see them as they really are. 1995). for example those apparently communicating via trance mediums.g.e. 2008). and psychical research in particular. Clearly. may be as real to themselves and to the seers as human beings are to us here in the third-dimensional world when we exercise normal vision. aside from the huge assumptions involved in expecting our supposed hyperintelligent beings having the desire to co-operate and 'prove themselves'. be that maths puzzles. 1996). p. for a comprehensive discussion). this ingenious method for testing the reality of DMT entity encounters is subject to a number of flaws.

of course. A recent conversation with a 5year-old boy who described this exact entity and its aetivity in exquisite detail had me wondering whether the boy was a) generating an extremely elaborate spontaneous hoax.1. so as at least to show that extraordinary experiences under the influence of DMT may be genuine. such as reports of shamans singing while weavers 'see' the sounds and independently weave identical yarn patterns (see Luke. aliens. 902 characteristics of particular entities. 2008b). No. may not quite be certain where it fits in and. in press). be they apparitions. IMPLICATIONS The real benefit of this research. such as the bizarre preponderance of praying mantises (Luke. especially those eneountered naively and without any cultural context from which the characteristics of the entity could be derived (Luke. An alternative would be the demonstration of the lawful and orderly induction of synaesthetic communications. one such being that commonly appears to naïve DMT users is an entity consisting of multiple entwined serpents covered in multitudinous eyes. These are possible avenues of research but any small miracle these days is a step in the right direetion. often forming a fibonacci-spiral-like geometrical shape. poltergeists.Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. 2008a). with possible ineorporeal origins. 2010b). Obscure references to a similar mythological entity. For instanee. 2008a). 75. ghosts. It might be possible by such means to determine how statistically improbable is the oeeurrenee of these shared visions. to supply enough rope for any attempt to fathom the identity of such entities it would seem beneficial to first demonstrate the authenticity of some less nebulous paranormal phenomena. b) deeply psychic. by itself. nevertheless upon inspection of the literature it appears that such an approach has rarely been applied to the study of apparently collective visions and may point the baffled DMT ontologist in an enlightening direction. tell us whether sueh experiences are real or not. though we. Nevertheless. in any case. Ultimately we remain burdened with an intellectual regress whilst left clutching a neuroehemical piece of the jigsaw. of course. or c) had genuinely eneountered this entity on a regular basis during dreams and hypnagogia. is that a deeper understanding of DMT and its associated discarnate entities may east some light on the study of all encounter phenomena. The danger with such information is that even if DMT is implicated in other spontaneous encounter experiences it cannot. Sueh a methodology has its limitations. sometimes identified as 'the angel of death'. 2008) or genuine extra-dimensional percepts (Luke. A similar phenomenologieal triangulation approaeh could fruitfully be made with other types of entities commonly eneountered with DMT and ayahuasea. or the kinds of spirits supposedly channelled by mediums. also exist in various cultural cosmologies. Sueh data pose challenging questions as to whether the entity is culturally mediated— which seems unlikely given the obscurity of the cultural references — or a culture-free universal feature of DMT activation (naturally or artificially) in the brain. elves. possibly indicating the trans-cultural nature of this entity (Luke. Appropriate directions for such endeavours may inelude demonstrating the utility of DMT (or ayahuasca) for inducing either psi under controlled conditions (Luke. 38 . it seems to make the puzzle that much more perplexing.

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